My Desert Island Consulting Tools

Sep 24, 2018 by Barc Category: Business, Consulting, Leadership 0 comments Tags: consulting, tools

If I was stranded on a desert Island with a client, and my client was open to passing the time with a little problem solving, I’m pretty sure we could make a lot of progress with only three tools.

And, though I’m a technology consultant, the three tools I’d pick aren’t really technical.

  1. A whiteboard (a big one on wheels if possible. Since that would be hard to get on the life raft, I suppose I could scribble on the beach with a stick).

I need to be able to draw my thoughts in big ugly pictures, then ask the client if that’s what they had in mind. I’d ask them to stand up and draw with me too, moving towards drawing the biggest system they could influence, instead of a process to fix their one specific issue.

With a whiteboard, I can draw ideas and erase them as fast as they come to mind, then try something new, all the while listening closely to the client’s reactions to my scribbles.

By collaborating on an objective board, we’re agreeing neither of us is the authority, only idea-generators. A whiteboard is a temporary projection screen, separate from the people, tools, and processes; separate from the people drawing on it or affected by the models drawn.

  1. A notebook (or the same beach and stick, but somewhere where my notes won’t get washed away too quickly).

I don’t use a laptop in client meetings because it puts a wall between us. I use a yellow pad and write big so they can see what I’m writing. I could use the new iPad with a stylus, I suppose. But I would be afraid the client would think I have some great information tucked away in there.

When writing, I periodically stop and read my notes out loud to make sure I got it right. I also leave plenty space to draw pictures, ideas, questions, thought bubbles, etc. that I’m not ready to put on the whiteboard–ideas and questions I can ponder in my hammock later.

  1. A phone (I’m pretty sure a coconut connected to another coconut via twine on the mainland won’t work, but low tech–a Blackberry–is fine. Of course, by having a phone of any type, I realize I’m raising all kinds of issues with cell coverage and why my first call isn’t to the Coast Guard).

I need something to call my friends, friends who have dealt with similar client situations as well as friends who are chasing completely unrelated solutions. I get out of my biases faster when I hear a person’s tone of voice. The less strident and happy they are, the more I can hear their ideas. Of course, my first call would likely be to my wife, who will undoubtedly, rationally, and happily jolt me out of my initial bright ideas.

At the end of the day I don’t think any of these tools will rescue me or my client, but they will help us break the current logjam. They’ll allow us, briefly, to step away from the current system, our biases, our habits, and allow us to try something new.

Most importantly, all three tools allow us to discuss and record a commitment, go away (at least to the other side of the island), give it a shot, then come back to a week later to see how it went.