Right on schedule, disruption has come to the world of consulting. While many have seen it coming, only a few consulting firms are prepared to ride this wave of disruption into a new market reality.
That preparation depends on new tools for augmented intelligence. Two decades ago, James Bailey awoke to a new understanding of digital thought as he worked on early prototypes of massively parallel processing for super-computers. His realizations are captured in the book “After Thought: The Computer Challenge To Human Intelligence.” Bailey predicted that the next generation of computers “will evolve a process of intelligence that is not the same as ours, or even understandable by ours.”
His prediction is playing itself out right now in the consultancy industry. Experience alone is not the best guide to future strategies in a chaotic global market roiled by innovations and flooded with original sources of data. Take a moment to look over Consultancy 2.0, which is bringing in an era of intelligence augmentation and data analysis tools embedded directly into client networks. Both of those innovations represent a radical break with the past.
Innovation From Augmented Intelligence
Mathematicians share a secret that is devastating in its implications. It is the simple acknowledgement that some problems are too difficult for the human mind. It’s the only logical conclusion based on the infinite complexity of chaotic systems and the physical limitations of the brain. A good example involves the set of combinatorial optimization problems, commonly known as the “traveling salesman” problem.
Picture a salesman who must visit a dozens of cities and then return home. What is the most efficient route he should take? The answer to that problem has implications for systems ranging from logistics, such as the optimal routes for delivery trucks, to IT infrastructure, such as how to minimize traffic interference across wireless networks. All the human brainstorming and consulting experience in the world cannot help. Consultants can suggest route improvements, but in the end managers tend to simply choose a path and justify the decision retroactively.
In fact, this category of problems cannot be solved with our current technology. A salesman’s path through 30 cities is impossible for the fastest linear computer in the world today. If a computer could check one trillion possibilities every second, it would take 20X longer than the age of the universe to find the answer.
Today’s problems demand a new approach. Augmented consultants no longer rely on experience alone or even the fastest computer. On top of their experience, they add a layer of analytics running on millions of processors distributed in the cloud. They pull data from billions of connected devices across the Internet of Things (IoT). Soon they will be able to deploy quantum computers that are 100 million times more powerful than fastest computer on the market today.
The term augmented reality (AR) refers to the technique of layering information on top of the physical world, like the way that the monsters of Pokemon Go appear on top of live video feeds. Similarly, augmented consultancy involves layering data-centric forecasting and pattern recognition by artificial intelligence (AI) on top of consulting experience to generate innovations that matter. A good example of intelligence augmentation is the InnoSurvey database, which serves as the foundation of the Innovation360 Group’s advice on global growth and innovation management.
Data Tools and Client Embedding
The business model for management consulting hasn’t really changed for 100 years. Smart outsiders come in, analyze the business and make recommendations. That’s not what consulting will look like anymore.
The entire consulting industry was rocked a few years ago when McKinsey & Co announced their McKinsey Solutions initiative. It was clear that McKinsey saw disruption coming for them and sought the best path to get ahead of it. McKinsey Solutions is a plan to embed customized AI software within the client’s network. The point is to help them make better decisions faster. AI can discern patterns that humans can’t inside the vast pools of churning data that define the contemporary business landscape.