Consulting Firms in India

ARE you an aspiring consultant looking to work India?

Or perhaps you are just interested to know more about the leading consulting firms in South Asia?

What ever the case may be, we have just produced, for your benefit, a guidebook which provides an overview of the most prominent consulting firms in India.

The guidebook is free. No member sign up required. You can download it here.

Christmas Tidings

Two lessons we might learn from Christmas

For many of us, especially expectant young children, Christmas is a day of high expectations.  It can often fall short of the mark.

Santa may have brought you an Xbox when you had desperately wanted a Playstation. Or perhaps you got a new Samsung tablet, when you were busting for the new iPad instead.

It can be painful when reality falls dismally short of our idealized vision of the future.

The cynic might respond simply that these are “first world problems”, but the issue is not quite that simple. Disappointment, at times, is felt by all of us.

With expectations high, and disappointment almost inevitable, it seems like as good a time as any to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas, and what it might teach us about business.

We have two thoughts to share with you.

The first one is about gratitude. You won’t always get dealt the cards you wanted.

Santa may have brought you some gifts, but they may not have been the ones you really wanted. Disappointment naturally follows from expecting more than you were given. You set the bar quite high, in your own mind, and Santa failed to deliver.

A different response to the same situation would be to feel gratitude, thankful for whatever you have. While nice presents are always wonderful, you set no expectations of receiving anything from anyone, and so even the small gifts that you received can be made to feel wonderful.

We have never heard the word “gratitude” used in a business context, but it has some surprising implications. Take for example Clay Christensen‘s famous research on disruptive innovation in which he looked at the ability of inferior new market entrants (e.g. mini mills in the steel industry) to displace powerful and well established incumbents (e.g. the integrated steel mills).

Clay explained it this way. The process of disruption is made possible because the large incumbent firms are pretty much always happy to sacrifice the bottom of the market, with its lower margins, in order to pursue even higher returns upmarket. By abandoning the bottom of the market, the new entrants are able to gain a foothold from which they can move upmarket, eventually displacing the formerly powerful firms that had dominated the industry.

The large players have high profit expectations and, as a result, are not grateful for low margin business. They are happy to abandon it. The new entrants, in contrast, are delighted with these scraps of work, since small profits are better than nothing.

Looking at it this way, we can see that lack of gratitude for the opportunity to serve the bottom of the market appears to be a factor that contributed to the bankruptcy of integrated steel mills in the 1990’s and 2000’s.

Christmas is a time to remember the value of gratitude.

It is also, as it happens, a time to remember the value of giving.

You may have received lousy gifts: business socks, jelly beans, or a gift voucher. The spirit of Christmas, though, is about giving gifts, not receiving them.

For many years this seemed to us to be a very strange custom. Receiving presents is obviously nice, and so why the focus on giving?

The lesson, it now occurs to us, is that giving allows us to strengthen our relationships with the people we care about.

At Christmas time, we give gifts and send messages of good will to family and friends. These gifts and heart felt communications help to bring us closer together.

Generosity, though, is not just a feel good notion that should be reserved for Christmas, it is also an important ingredient for sustaining and growing profitable businesses.

Every year, major brands spend billions of dollars to communicate with us. Nike reminds us that victory and success are possible, “Just do it!”. McDonald’s sends us messages of happiness and love, “I’m lovin’ it!”. And Coca Cola reminds us that the holidays are coming.

Marketing is often misunderstood and misused to spam people about new products and price discounts. Successful businesses have realized though that people don’t just buy products, they buy products from brands with whom they have an ongoing relationship. They buy products from brands that they know and trust.

Throughout the year, as they do every year, successful brands will find ways to reach out to the people they care about, to make connections, and to keep the relationship alive.

Merry Christmas! May you have a prosperous year ahead!

Wealth

Where do you place value?

Wealth

(Source: Flickr)

ONE of our heroes, New York based consultant Alan Weiss, has a unique perspective on wealth. He regularly shares the view that “wealth is discretionary time”.

The reason his approach to wealth is so striking is that most people, at least those of us living in Western market based economies, tend to think of wealth as money.

To be wealthy is to have a lot of money, no?

Well, it depends on what you value.

If we take a broad definition of wealth, then we might say that wealth means “an abundance of valuable possessions”.

The catch with this definition is that you get to decide what’s valuable.

Here are a few options that you might want to consider:

  1. Reputation
  2. Skills
  3. Capacity to delight and solve problems for other people
  4. Free time
  5. Memories and experiences
  6. Friends and family
  7. Cars, houses and boats
  8. Fame and fortune

It’s your story, and you get to make choices.

Where do you place value?

Guess and Check

Making progress in the absence of knowledge

ALL too often, and especially when starting out on a new project, the things we don’t know outnumber the things we do.

We may know very little and, in the absence of knowledge, we can become stuck.

Paralysis, our inability or unwillingness to make forwards progress, is the surest road to stagnation, difficulty and ultimate demise.

What can be done about it?

The scientific community, determined to break new ground, long ago developed a formal solution to its paralysis problem: the scientific method.

The scientific method, a trial and error process of guessing and checking, formally accepts that scientists have limited knowledge about the nature of reality.

The strength of the scientific method is that it allows scientists to make forwards progress even in the absence of knowledge. Scientists make an educated guess about what they believe is happening and then collect data and run experiments to try and prove themselves wrong.

Management consultants operate in much the same way.

Consultants will typically develop an early case hypothesis, their best guess about the source of an organisation’s problems, and then collect information to check if their hunch is correct.

In the absence of knowledge or swamped with too much information, scientists and consultants continue to successfully solve problems by accepting their limits.

Take a guess, and then check.

William Black on Global Financial Stability

WILLIAM Black, former bank regulator and Professor of Economics and Law at the University of Missouri, witnessed first hand how banks took control of the banking system to commit fraud on a colossal scale.

In his TED Talk from last year (watch it below) Black talks about “liar’s loans” and other tactics that the banks used to bring the global economy to its knees during the 2008 financial crisis.

Black makes a clear argument that the way to prevent future banking failure is to prevent “control fraud”, the situation where a CEO takes control of a legitimate entity (for our purposes, a bank) and uses the entity to commit fraud and get rich in the process.

Black provides a bleak outlook for the ongoing stability of the global financial system, arguing that a number of key regulatory reforms are needed (including shrinking “too big fail” banks so that they no longer pose a systemic risk).

Relationship Power Play

If you run a company, your customers hold the balance of power. Are you delighting them, or leaving an opening for somebody to cut your grass?

IF you want to know which party holds the balance of power in a relationship, you just need to look at the direction in which the gifts are flowing. The gift recipient almost certainly holds the balance of power.

If you are the partner of a management consulting firm taking the CEO of a large corporation out to dinner, you had better choose a nice restaurant, be charming as hell, and pick up the bill at the end of the night.

If you are Apple Inc. planning the launch of the latest iPhone, you had better dazzle your fans at the Worldwide Developers Conference, produce appealing advertisments to delight and inform the public, and maintain beautiful stores where customers can discover your products for themselves.

If you are a guy inviting a girl on a first date, you had better make sure she has a good time.

Relationships are tricky things, and there will always be people and companies who get it wrong.

The partner in a consulting firm who neglects his clients and believes the quality of his work should ¨speak for itself¨. The retail store manager who never smiles and spends more time stocking shelves than talking to people. Or the radical feminist who believes that if a guy treats a girl nicely and insists on paying for dinner that he is somehow opposed to equal rights for women.

Relationships are tricky things, and there will always be people and companies who get it wrong.

While we may not be able to straighten out the perplexed, we can at least do our best to understand our relationships with other people.

Who holds the balance of power, and are you making them happy?

[Hat tip to Matt Costa.]