The Unicorn: Working at the intersection of McKinsey and IDEO

Until now, business strategy and design thinking have lived in different worlds, held different purposes, and rarely competed. Today it’s not only the ‘Big 4’ that has access to the CEO and their senior teams, and equally, the ‘creative process’ is no longer removed from the business and commercial agenda. This intersection is known as innovation.

The innovation industry is booming and providing new avenues – and revenue streams – for management consultancies and creative agencies as well as affording a platform for new start-ups to compete. The challenge is, where do you find an ‘Innovation Consultant’? Where before has commercial met design? As a headhunting firm created to service this new industry, Bamboo Crowd has been lucky enough to speak with the leaders of this movement as well as the talent looking to enter it. With this knowledge we’re able to offer up our insights.

Can a designer learn business strategy? Or can a management consultant think creatively? Yes to both. However, the danger of becoming a generalist will not hold weight in the c-suite. Innovation needs to have a make-up of both working in collaboration under one roof, not in silos. Such people need to be ‘polymaths’ with an inherent ability – and sprinkle of natural curiosity and interest – to learn all the tools of the innovation process. While not proclaiming to be a master of all, and still with a core specialism (be that business or design), such a polymath will be able to think more creatively, and in turn help galvanise business growth and breakthrough innovation.

The innovation playground is already fiercely competitive, especially from a talent attraction perspective. To succeed in this space agencies and a consultancies need to fish in a new talent pool integrating both creatives and commercial strategists into a environment that fosters collaboration. Whilst this is more challenging when looking for the more experienced who can ‘hit the ground running’, building up foundations is easier. You need look no further than graduates coming out of universities such as Central St Martin’s who have dedicated courses in innovation!

Consultancies such as Fahrenheit 212, ?What if!, Bow & Arrow and Doblin demonstrate unicorns do exist, and exist to deliver rigorous commercial outcomes while at the same time delivering brilliant ideas and design that resonates with consumers.

I’m a Founding Partner of Bamboo Crowd. I help our clients invest better in people and scale through Engine. I solve recruitment challenges and help our clients source the best talent across operations, business development, programme management, and technology. Ask me about good films, beards and hip hop.