In addition to advising senior executives, I oversee Africa and Latin America for the Wharton Global Consulting Practicum. GCP is a wonderful program where MBA and Executive MBA students work as consulting teams on international strategic marketing projects for multinational companies and other organizations needing strategic marketing help. The clients wind up with great ideas and recommendations for a modest fee and the students get the change to spend six months working on amazing projects that significantly impact their client’s future.
Around the middle of the projects we have an event called Devils Advocate. The teams deliver a 20 minute presentation on what they’ve done, what they’re thinking, and where they could use some good advice to a collection of Devils – international senior executives with no other knowledge about the projects than what they’ve just heard. The Devils critique what they’ve heard, offer advice, and generally force the teams to defend their work while thinking about wildly different ideas flying at them from all directions.
We had a number of Devils Advocate presentations over the last few weeks. As usual, the Devils offered loads of ideas and advice which led to spirited discussion. Since the Devils have minimal project knowledge, the ideas run the gamut from quite insightful and well targeted to project situation and objectives to ideas that at least at first glance seem way off base. First glance since as these ideas percolate through the team’s thinking over the following weeks they often wind up being the most useful ideas.
As I’ve thought about the recent Devils Advocate sessions I found myself thinking about how valuable such sessions would be for most of my clients. As we all know, as hard as they try to keep their thinking fresh, executives so often wind up stuck in the same old mindset. They spend most of their time talking to the same people and looking at ideas from within their own industry. Even when they bring in consultants for advice, too often they’re industry experts who live in the same box as their clients.
Think of the value of pulling together a group of experts with a wide variety of backgrounds. Experts with all kinds of different education, experience, beliefs, knowledge, and ideas. Put them together, share a bit of information about your issues, and turn them loose to think and offer ideas and suggestions. Who knows what they might come up with.
An Expert Think Tank aimed directly at your issues. An Expert Think Tank unhindered by group think or knowing too much. An Expert Think Tank free to let their minds roam freely.
Expert Think Tank: a way to break free from your mental shackles.