What Does it Take to Be a Free-thinking Consultant?

May 23, 2016 John Gorup

free-thinking consultant

I was a consultant for over 15 years, and every week challenged me to be a better person. I learned to think and solve problems. It made me a better communicator. I learned about many different industries from the inside — something I would have never been able to do in a corporate job. I also made lasting friendships.

But while consulting is a rewarding profession, it is not an easy one. Here are 9 qualities/responsibilities of most consultants:

  1. Consultants must be up on the latest technology, which can be a challenge, what with the little time they have outside of working with clients.
  2. Consultants must adhere to a Statement of Work, while also offering creative solutions.
  3. Traveling consultants pile up hotel and flight points that they’ll never use because they want to stay home when they have time off.
  4. Consultants are expected to work as fast as possible, but slow enough to avoid major mistakes.
  5. Consultants are asked to change decades-old processes in a few weeks.
  6. Consultants should have the technical skills of an MIT engineer, and the personality of a game show host.
  7. Travel can bring consultants to new and exciting places… where they sit in an office in front of a computer.
  8. Consultants work in teams, where camaraderie and a family atmosphere can make work fun — until the project ends.
  9. Consultants are expected to always be available, but also have time to help their communities.

Appirio’s consultants are “free-thinking” consultants. They understand that helping our clients be great requires a combination of strong thinking and deep experience. As Appirio consultant Joe Fiega said when I asked what it means to be a free-thinking consultant, “The key is that in order to be a free-thinking consultant you need to develop formative opinions and beliefs that you can articulate and defend… and those opinions/beliefs are best developed through challenging experiences.”

The difference between a free-thinking consultant and a regular consultant was articulated by Aristotle and other philosophers 2,300 years ago. It’s the difference between the Greek words epistêmê (where we get the word epistemology) and technê (where we get the word technology.) Someone with technê has skills in a craft. Epistêmê is a deeper knowledge. It’s the difference between a sailor that knows how to work the sails, and one who knows how to arrive at their destination despite a sudden gale.

Free-thinking consultants don’t just know how to implement technology; they have the epistêmê to handle unexpected conditions.

Consulting is a great profession.

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