Consultants and Adaptation

Three years ago I had an interview with one of the partners of the consulting firm I am currently working for. It was a very tough interview, following a tough GMAT and a business case, “consulting” style. Obviously I passed it, but one thing I want to mention and discuss about is one question that I had at the moment (being not really aware of  what management consulting was about, having a theoretical idea but not really knowing): I wanted to know what is the main quality of a good consultant. What is it that a consultant needs to have to excel in his job? It is a valid question, taking into consideration the extreme diversity of projects you need to deal with. Is it the mathematical thinking, the ability to make fast calculations?  Is it financial knowledge, being able to interpret figures and discover mismatches with one look into a huge, complicated excel sheet? Is it empathy and social skills, the capability to deal with people and sell?

I came up with the question to my to-be boss: “What is the greatest quality of a consultant?” He looked at me (I can still see that look very clearly) and said: “Well, I can only think of one thing that a consultant should be able to do and can not function without: she needs to be able to adapt.”

Back then the answer made sense, as a consultant has to jump from project to project, from industry to industry, from competence to competence. But now I see how suitable the answer is for more questions: What is the biggest quality of a business? What is the biggest quality of an employee? What is the biggest quality of a CEO? What is the biggest quality of an entrepreneur? What is the biggest quality of an individual?

There is only one answer that fits all these categories (and more): the capacity to adapt. The world today is complex in regard to the development of the human needs and wants and in constant evolution. I am only 30 years old and I went from sending paper mail and watching television on a wooden TV  to fast messaging and Digital TV, and of course, the internet. The rapidity of the evolution of all markets and of human desires requires that we turn our attention towards how important it is to adapt.

Without being able to adapt we will stagnate and reverse. As a person, as a business, as a society. Being part of a 7 billion people world with limited resources somehow doesn’t allow you to be “yourself” unless “yourself” fits in with the whole picture. You need to adapt your personae and your needs / desires to those of the others and society overall, you need to adapt your business to the needs and evolution of the markets.

In this whole picture, the only certain things is and will be change (I know, a big truism, but nevertheless important) and adapting to it, embracing it will actually ensure you having a leading position in business or in life.

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