Design is popular. It’s not surprising that McKinsey & Company bought a design company. Many consulting firms are branching out with acquisitions in areas which were once considered non-core. Deloitte has picked up a few digital agencies. Accenture bought Fjord, a design firm. Hell, even Capital One bought a design agency called Adaptive Path. Strategic design takes on many different forms and faces – many of which are extensions of the work that management consultants have always done:
- Understand the customers’ needs, wants, and behaviors
- Look holistically at the root causes beyond the obvious project scope
- Use data to tell stories that executives can use to champion a cause
- Tap the collective minds of diverse experts through collaborative workshops
- Drive innovation through structured creativity and project management discipline
These things are not new to consulting, yetI am also confident that design firms bring a fresh new approach to re-invigorate our excessively PowerPoint and Excel worlds.
Moving towards BIG DESIGN. Wired magazine does a great job tracking the rise and fall of design here. They have gone through waves of influence, disruptions, merger, and synthesis. The new term we will hear in the coming months: Big Design.
McKinsey & Company has some smart folks; they have their own reasons for the acquisition, but here are a few that I came up with:
- Collaboration culture. I have never heard anyone say that McKinsey consultants are easy to collaborate with. In fact, I often here the exact opposite. . . they are smart BUT, arrogant and don’t listen. Having an infusion of design-oriented, open-ended thinkers will do the firm some good.
- Culture change. Consulting firms are very guilty of copy/pasting solutions between engagements because a lot of business problems are similar. You don’t want to “reinvent the wheel“, but this sometimes this slips into mental laziness. Can Lunar infuse more creativity into consulting; keep things fresh? How can Lunar’s 75 people change the culture of the 17,000 who work for McKinsey?
- Improve deliverables. Let’s agree on this fact: PowerPoints can be boring. Executives are very visual people; putting together an interactive proposal, app, visual display or prototype is a smart way to win business. Bring the work to life.
- Design thinking: Peter Senge’s (The Fifth Discipline) makes a compelling argument that most issues are symptoms of the systems that created them. Large companies are complex; regions, business units, and functions are all sub-optimizing the solution. Design thinking helps to cut through the clutter and aims for a simpler, more elegant solution; get at the root cause of the issue.
- Customer insights. Design firms excel at digging into customer insights; they often employ ethnographers, psychologists, sociologists and other scientists to identify customer phenotypes; attitudes, preferences, behaviors.
- New work. If you look at Lunar’s website, you can see many different areas where a straight-laced consulting firm like McKinsey probably rarely play. As McKinsey continues to grow, they need to find new avenues and markets.
- Recruiting cache. Young, bright stars want to do something cool. Most millennials would likely prefer working for IDEO than the big 4 or big 3.
To give you a hint at the potential fit, the President of Lunar is a lecturer at Stanford on the topic of Design Methods. He describes his course on his Linkedin profile here:
Developed a curriculum and taught this project-based course to give students hands-on education in the design process, from research, observation, and definition through to ideation, prototyping and refinement. Projects helped students understand the designer’s role in creating for others while bringing their own point of view and aesthetic voice to the process.
Honestly, sounds a lot like management consulting, huh?