The Earth Isn’t Flat – Your Strategic Thinking Shouldn’t be Either

Diverging Arrow on StreetToday’s post is by James M. Kerr, author of The Executive Checklist (CLICK HERE to get your copy). 

Recently, I was sitting across the table from a prospective client when they said, “We need an industry expert to help us do…”

It made me laugh a bit, but, I felt compelled to ask, “Why? Is it because you want to do what your competition is already doing?” Many consultants repurpose previously developed solutions – selling them to unsuspecting clients who don’t know any better or ones that want the latest advice from “industry experts.”

Do you really think you need industry experts to deliver desired outcomes?

Think again.

These widely held beliefs, provided by “experts” at the time, were proven wrong by people who were considered “outsiders” and “heretics” in their day:

The World is Flat

The Sun is A Fiery Stone

The Earth is the Center of the Universe

Sometimes you need a different point of view.

Management consultants can bring an “outsider’s” perspective to the table. But, the best at their craft don’t pretend to have all the answers. It seems that such an attitude only limits thinking. Instead, look for advisors that can help your highly knowledgeable staff develop the solutions that are right for you — driving tailored advice and business results through the use of proven methodologies and approaches.

Let’s face it. We have all experienced the same, old tired strategies applied over and over again within industries:

Multi-member mobile phone plans;

Grocery stores with discount gas stations tie-ins;

Loyalty cards at retail stores;

Frequent flier programs;

And the list goes on.

Nevertheless, rest assured that there were “industry experts” behind the scenes that were providing these solutions to the main players in each industry and didn’t blink an eye while delivering the same old, tired answers over and over again to any firm that cared to buy their advice.

So, what can a senior leadership do to gain fresh perspectives on how best to gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace? Here are a few ideas of the types of consultants worth seeking out:

– Generalists, who are industry neutral, but, have a strong track record of delivering innovative solutions to a variety of clients;

– Boutique firms, who have problem-solving methodologies for strategic planning, organizational design, business transformation, and so on, that can be applied in a variety of ways to a wide-array of clients, independent of industry or sector;

– Thought leaders from outside your industry, who can ask all of the “dumb questions,” yet, can provide ideas and suggestions that may lead to the next best strategic differentiator for your organization.

Remember, every organization shares the same three overarching goals: to be provider of choice, employer of choice and investment of choice within their industry niche. The “secret sauce” that separates one business competitor from another is the strategies that they employ to achieve those goals and separate themselves from the rest of the players within their segment.

A leadership team that chooses to use “industry experts” to help them develop their strategies for their business is only hoping to keep up with the pack. There’s no real separation when competitive strategies become nothing more than table stakes among industry competitors. Revolutionary thinking can only come from those that live outside of an industry’s current intellectual paradigm. So, it’s imperative for leaders to seek-out that unique perspective.

In closing, and this is very important, you know your business better than anyone from the outside possibly can. Sometimes you just need a catalyst to help you think outside-the-box. The best consulting firms can help you cultivate and advance the breakthrough thinking necessary to compete and win.

After all, the Earth isn’t flat. Your strategic thinking shouldn’t be, either.

The Executive Checklist by James Kerr– James M. Kerr is a strategy thought leader at BlumShapiro Consulting in West Hartford, CT. He has worked with clients from a variety of industry and sectors.  His latest book is The Executive Checklist (CLICK HERE to get your copy).  You can contact him at

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