Consulting or Research? Why Not Both?
Sometimes people ask me why, after getting my Ph.D., I did not go into a “research” field, such as a job in academia. Other times, people ask me why the name of my consulting company has the word “research” in it.
The assumption embedded in these questions is that consulting and research are mutually exclusive activities. If you are doing research, you cannot be doing consulting; and if you are doing consulting, you cannot be doing research.
On the contrary, I hold the view that the two are strongly related, and are actually most beneficial when integrated. The best consulting is research-oriented, and the best research is consultative in nature. The synthesis of the two mindsets is where practical knowledge and real value can be created.
Consulting involves providing insight into some sort of problem that a client is facing. While the types of problems that clients face can be categorized into various groups with certain commonalities, no two client situations are ever exactly the same. There are always context-specific peculiarities about the internals of the company itself (e.g., leadership, operations, culture, strategy), or external factors (e.g., the industry, customers, geographic region, broad business environment). Two companies with profitability problems may have very different causes, and require very different solutions.
The process of investigating the problem, proposing a hypothesis, gathering data, identifying a problem, and implementing a solution is essentially analogous to the scientific method (i.e., research). Unique problems require tailored solutions, and those solutions require a research-oriented perspective.
Similarly, taking a consulting-oriented perspective to research is beneficial as well. Consulting assumes that there is an ultimate customer for the research being conducted. While early-stage basic research is important, it is often not clear how (or if) the knowledge will ever be used. On the other hand, when an end-user is clearly identified, who may need the research outputs to solve a real, tangible problem that they are facing, the goal of the research is clear and keeps the research practical, focused, and grounded.
Therefore, consulting and research are both activities that involve:
- logical and structured problem solving
- investigating unique and novel situations
- collection and analysis of data
- knowledge creation
- dissemination of results
In conclusion, the synthesis of research and consulting can be a powerful tool. Instead of merely applying out-of-the-box solutions, a consultant who can take a research-oriented view to solving client challenges can ensure that custom-tailored solutions are delivered to properly address unique problems.
At Collier Research Systems, we seamlessly blend consulting and research to help you solve your toughest decision making challenges. Leveraging state of the art methods and capabilities, we help companies and organizations make good decisions in complex and uncertain environments. To learn more, visit: www.collierresearchsystems.com.