Let’s map some folks into the consultant POVSpace!
Let’s start with someone who can put me on blast if I get their POV wrong: Liston Witherill. I shared this image with you on Saturday, but I’ll explain a bit more about it today:
There are 4 pieces of information about Liston’s POV represented here. They are answers to these 4 questions:
- Goal: Is the goal of the consultant’s work radical transformation or incremental optimization?
- Argument: Does the consultant make decisions and recommendations based on experience & ideals, or data?
- Status: Is this consultant a pedigreed insider or an expert outsider?
- Change Style: Will this consultant create change through disruption or through a more gentle, evolutionary style?
The answers to the first two questions define where we place the rectangle on the 2×2 matrix.
The answer to the third question defines whether the rectangle is yellow or blue. (Thanks to this web page for suggesting colorblind-friendly color palettes: Coloring for Colorblindness)
The answer to the fourth question defines whether the rectangle has rounded or sharp corners.
In text form, I’d represent Liston’s POV by saying he is an Evolver-Style Framework-Based Optimizer working from Experience.
In text form, it seems like Liston’s POV is all or nothing. All evolver, or all disruptor. All data, or all experience.
The visual representation is more accurate because it portrays range. Someone who emphasizes optimization but occasionally points out the need for fundamental transformation can be more accurately represented on the visual POVSpace map.
Here’s how I’d map my POV:
There’s a little bit of an aspirational quality in how I’ve represented my POV. In reality, I’m standing almost completely in the experience/ideals side of the argument spectrum, but I aspire to incorporate more data into how I argue things. I have started moving this way, but it’s early days.
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It’s worth asking: is it better to argue from data than from experience or ideals or a combination of both experience and ideals?
I know some consultants who earn a very large amount of money and operate from data. And I know some others who earn similarly large amounts of money while operating from experience/ideals.
The market doesn’t seem to care which you operate from!
The key, I think, is owning where you operate from in the POVSpace. Operating from that standpoint unapolagetically, and without undermining yourself by seeing where you operate from as structurally weaker than the alternative.
I often remind myself: If human beings waited for data to make the case for every potential innovation, we would not be nearly as far along as we are today. An inductive, experiential innovation process can lead to incredibly valuable insight. So can simply saying, “there’s got to be a better way”. Or, “in an ideal world, things would look like this. Let’s try to make things more like that ideal world.”
Data can be powerful. In today’s world it seems more automatically persuasive than experience/ideals, but I’m not sure it actually is. Data comes with its own tradeoffs.
If you’re operating from data, you have several challenges to solve for:
- Will you show your work, or just ask your audience to trust you to accurately summarize what your data tells you?
- If you show your work, will your audience understand your data and methodology?
- How will your data inspire change? In other words, how will you market the learnings derived from your data?
Experience/ideals coming from the right person can be incredibly persuasive. But this argument style has its own challenges:
- How will you respond to objections coming from other people’s experience/ideals?
- How will you help clients implement the change(s) needed to pursue ambitious ideals?
- When someone arguing from data contradicts what you have to say, where do you go from there? How do you make that a productive conversation?
Neither argument style is better. In fact, none of the places you can stand in the POVSpace is inherently superior.
Awareness of where you stand in the POVSpace is critical, though, because that awareness helps you maximize the impact and persuasiveness of your message to prospective clients.