This week, we are featuring Gareth Lymer, co-founder of After the Comma. After the Comma is an innovation consultancy with a clear mission: to bring empathy into strategy, innovation and creative development.
How do you bring empathy into the innovation and creative process?
For us, empathy is a core principle of our business. We try to bring creativity to the ways we develop empathy for people in their lives. Most of our work involves some kind of primary research, and the creativity comes in how we look at people’s lives holistically and apply that knowledge to our client’s challenge. We bring the same approach into our interactions with each other and clients.
What is your view on how the service of innovation consulting is changing and evolving?
It needs to change and evolve.
We see a lot of clients wanting to experience the process for themselves, projects are opportunities to learn and discover together, and we think this makes projects better . A traditional benefit for clients of working with consultancies is they get a more rounded, cross-category sense of the consumer. Clients are very knowledgeable about their own sector but perhaps less informed about broader consumer trends. As some innovation is being taken in-house, there’s a risk that some of that lateral perspective is lost. As a result, we believe that collaboration across organisational or categorical boundaries is key at all stages in the innovation process.
We also see the potential for a kind of network consultancy, where the number of people on payroll becomes less important and it’s more about access to a network of creative, collaborative, innovative people that can come together to work on a project as quickly as possible.
What is your opinion on the key skills needed to be successful in innovation today?
Obviously, creativity and intelligence are prerequsite but also persistence and patience can be equally as important, as major opportunities can take time to be revealed. Also important are collaboration and self-awareness. You need to understand who you are in order to know how best to contribute to any team that you’re in.
What is your opinion on where you think the world of innovation consulting is going? Who will succeed and who will fail?
I think those who succeed will be the people who find a way of creating new value for clients; those who will fail will be the people who resist change, focus internally and are happy with the status quo.
Consultancies have a responsibility to develop insights on emerging trends and to give clients the tools to figure out how to use this knowledge in their businesses. The businesses that don’t do this will eventually become irrelevant.
And to close, what makes After the Comma different?
Each time we've taken on a new project, we challenge ourselves to do it differently, work more creatively and discover new truths on which we can build a unique strategy.
This is because we want to keep learning and growing. We're very willing to put money and time into developing new products, services and ways of working for our clients.
This is important because we’re living the advice that we give to clients and it makes us authentic. We know what it's like to push and challenging each other to the point where you think you're at the brink. But we know that that's what it really takes to try and do things differently.