The Best Innovation Consulting Firms to Join in 2022

Top innovation consulting firmsWhat are some of the top innovation consulting firms you could join?

In this article, I want to do two things:

  1. To explain the different types of innovation consultancies,
  2. To share with you a selection of some of the best innovation consulting firms.

Let’s dive in!

What’s an innovation consulting firm

An innovation consultancy is a firm that helps companies prepare themselves for the future.

How does this work?

Innovation firms partner with their clients to solve the challenges that are going in the way of exploring new sources of growth.

They provide support through different type activities, including:

  • Spotting new opportunities
  • Facilitating innovation workshops (more about this here)
  • Creating an innovation portfolio
  • Developing a strategic narrative
  • Testing new ideas
  • Providing innovation training
  • Piloting a new business model

When I talk about this, people are often surprised that companies do not do that themselves. But, when you’re in the driving seat, it’s extremely difficult to plan your journey at the same time.

It’s the same for companies. It’s hard to execute a plan, while figuring out what you should do next.

Where innovation consulting firms come from

In the early 20th century, companies started growing at scale. They needed support to optimise their operations. This led to the birth of management consulting.

Innovation consulting firms were born out of another problem in the 1990s and 2000s. The changing business environment requires companies to reinvent themselves. It’s not just about being better at what you already do, it’s also about figuring out what else you can do to grow and remain relevant in a rapidly changing space.

Let me explain by comparing management consulting and innovation consulting:

  • Management consulting is about helping companies better operate and manage themselves. It’s about processes, efficiency, resource allocation, cost management, etc.
  • Innovation consulting is about helping explore new products and business models. It’s about discovering and testing new ways to generate revenue.

While management consulting focuses on improving upon the existing, innovation consulting is focused on figuring out what comes next.

Read more: If you want a more in-depth explanation, have a read of my detailed definition of what’s innovation consulting.

Different types of innovation consultancies

As you might expect, not all the firms are the same. To help you better understand the landscape, I divide the innovation firms in three buckets:

  • Independent consultancies
  • Departments of large consultancies
  • Acquired consultancies

For each category, I’ll share the specificity of working for such a firm.

Independent innovation consultancies

Independent innovation consultancies are private companies that deliver their services under one brand.

You can notice differences between:

  • Larger consultancies, which tend to reach a critical mass of a few hundreds consultants
  • Newer consultancies, which look more like startups with a handful of employees

I make the distinction because working for one type or the other feels very different. I’ll explain.

Larger innovation consultancies

In the “older” category, I put innovation consultancies that have existed for 5 to 30 years.

They tend to be led by their founders, but those may have been replaced by a non-founding executive team. This can have an impact on the culture and how the company runs. A founder-led consultancy tends to rely more on their ideas and vision. When the founders aren’t in the leadership team, ideas and the vision can be a bit more decentralised. Note that every consultancy will have a different governance system.

One noticeable difference: An older agency will have recurring clients and more inbound sales, as it can rely on its creds and reputation.

That being said, the size of the deals can be limited compared to consultancies that are part of public companies. To differentiate themselves, they may also focus on a smaller number of industries or types of services they provide.

Newer innovation consultancies

Newer consultancies will be led by their founders with very little hierarchy. For junior consultants, it will be easier to get more exposure and responsibilities.

What’s appealing is that it’s likely you’ll be working on new ways of approaching innovation. When you start a consultancy, you need to differentiate yourself. This will mean showing to your clients that you provide innovation services that do not exist, e.g., a new methodology, new ways of working, and new tools to use.

You also tend to have more freedom to create and take initiatives.

One thing to note with newer firms: There is a massive focus on sales and building credibility. This is especially important for senior consultants, who will spend lots of time pitching and responding to RFPs.

Departments of large consulting groups

Looking at the success of independent firms, large consulting groups also started delivering innovation services by setting up their own departments.

There, you will tend to have less freedom than in independent consultancies because you’ll have to follow the “mothership”. It means more admin, strict staffing and promotion policies, and less flexibility regarding how you spend your time. It comes with advantages and disadvantages.

  • One thing that’s quite appealing is that you’ll benefit from some momentum when selling work, as you’ll be selling new services to existing clients.
  • One of the risks is that the innovation department is in the service of selling other kinds of work. Some departments end up just running workshops rather than inventing new products and delivering strategic recommendations.

Talking about workshops: If you want to know more on how workshops are run, have a read of my guide on how to run great workshops.

Acquired innovation consultancies

An alternative for setting up an innovation department is to acquire an independent agency. Over the last few years, there’s been a big wave of consolidation with many independent firms being acquired by large consulting groups.

Here, it feels like a blend of the previous types. But note that it can evolve quickly. You may have a lot of freedom at the start and rapidly have to adopt more and more set processes. This depends on the type of integration strategy.

When speaking with people who work for companies that have been acquired, I noticed two types of acquisition strategies: Swallowing and scaling.

  1. Swallowing means that the company lost its brand name and merged with another acquisition or an existing innovation department,
  2. Scaling means that the acquirer sees potential in the brand and invests to open new offices and recruit more consultants.

While the former scenario can be deceptive, the latter one is exciting as it opens many opportunities for growth.

If you’re looking to join an innovation consultancy, spotting a recent acquisition that is scaling can be a great idea, as they will have more job openings.

Getting a job in innovation: If you’re interested in the innovation space, read my advice on how to get a job in innovation consulting.

Comparing different types of firms

To sum up the points I made before, let me share with you a table that compares the different kinds of innovation consulting firms.

[table id=4 responsive=scroll /]

As you can see, there isn’t a perfect type of firm. Every type has pros and cons. It all depends on what you’re after.

A list of top innovation consulting firms

Now, I want to share with you a list of innovation consultancies that make it to the top.

[table id=5 responsive=scroll /]

There are many more innovation consulting firms. You can find a good set of smaller innovation consultancies, and also, most consulting groups will have an innovation department.

I just wanted to give you a good list so you can kickstart your journey into applying for those firms.

If you want to broaden the list, you can have a look at some resources such as the FT Ranking and Sifted.

What’s next to join an innovation consulting firm

If you’ve read this article on the top innovation consulting firms because you want to work in innovation, I would suggest you read my series of articles on innovation consulting, especially the one on how to get a job in innovation consulting.

To go deeper and understand the type of work you’ll be doing, I also recommend reading my last two books.

Have a look at:

With all this, you’ll be set for success to get the job you want at an innovation consulting firm.

What’s Innovation Consulting, Everything You Need to Know

What is innovation consultingOver the last few years, innovation consulting got a lot of traction because of the way it enables companies to get better at building the future.

But not everyone knows what innovation consulting means.

I’ve been working with a leading innovation consultancy for more than five years. Let me use my experience to explain what innovation consulting is all about.

Lack of a clear definition

It’s hard to define the concept of innovation consulting because there is no set model. Every firm has its own approach. And even within these organising frameworks, they adapt how they do innovation to each of their clients (and sometimes to each project they run).

The reason?

Every innovation challenge is unique. You can’t tackle all of them with inflexible ways of doing things.

To explain what innovation consulting means, I’ll do four things:

  1. Define innovation
  2. Answer why companies need support to innovate
  3. Tell you about the main objectives that innovation consulting seeks to achieve
  4. Map the innovation landscapes with the main alternatives to innovation consultancies

Let’s get started!

A short definition of innovation

Innovation is often assimilated to new technologies. Artificial intelligence, blockchain, virtual reality… All these technologies sound like they’re connected to innovation.

Yes. Innovation often includes new technology. But that’s not it.

In the world of business and strategy, innovation is about new things that we didn’t do before and that allows us to grow a business.

Is it invention or innovation?

In general, innovation is treated as a synonym of invention. But not all inventions become innovations. And not all innovations come from new inventions.

Let me explain.

An invention is a new idea that can be patented. The patent documents the legal right of having thought of something new first. But it doesn’t mean that this new idea is useful and/or can lead to anyone being interested in buying the underlying product or service.

Invention vs. innovation - Meaning
Invention and innovation are two different concepts

From a business perspective, an innovation is something new that creates value for others and allows the company to capture some of that value in exchange for having created that value.

Remember: The distinction between invention and innovation is twofold: the right of having thought of something new (invention) and the ability of creating value for others, while capturing value in exchange (innovation).

What’s innovation? What’s not innovation?

An innovation can be as big as a new business that operates independently and as small as a new feature or new marketing initiative that helps grow sales or customer retention.

Meaning of innovation
To qualify as an innovation, it must be useful and allow a company to grow sustainably

And it can also be about being innovative in the way a company operates, e.g., creating a better hybrid working experience or setting up modular manufacturing capabilities.

Innovation is in the service of creating more value for customers and society to generate growth for a company.

So here’s the question: Why do companies need support to innovate?

Why companies buy innovation consulting services

Large organisations are excellent at executing a plan. Most of these companies have been in the business of doing the same thing well for decades (even centuries).

A lot of these companies have to create new capabilities to challenge themselves and pursue the new opportunities offered by the digital era.

Scaling machines

Organisations that operate at scale are well-oiled machines.

But they are missing one thing.

They’re missing the ability to discover new ways of doing things, and building new brands and new businesses.

A few weeks ago, I heard a senior executive of a global consumer goods company saying that “creating new brands is too hard”, which is why they are now partnering with consultancies.

Exploit or explore?

In the world of algorithms, we make a distinction between two activities:

  • Exploiting is about scaling, i.e., the systematic improvement and growth of an existing business
  • Exploring focuses on discovery, i.e., creating, testing, and implementing new ideas

Large companies are great at exploiting. They know how to use their resources to generate maximum return on the things they know well.

Innovation: Explore or Exploit
Exploring correlates with high uncertainty regarding the results, while exploiting relates more to things that a company already knows how to manage

But they need help to explore. Large companies aren’t great at experimenting with new ideas. They tend to need help to deal with high uncertainty.

Exploring is where innovation consulting has a role to play.

Innovation is today’s challenge

The Industrial Revolution led to the creation of complex organisations. In the 20th century, we saw the birth of management consulting firms such as Arthur D. Little (1909) and McKinsey & Company (1926). Their objective is to help companies to optimise the way they operate, so they become more efficient.

Timeline of management consulting and innovation consulting
When you look at the dates when the management consulting and innovation consulting firms were founded, it gets clear that the challenges that their clients face have changed

Then, in the 1990s and early 2000s, the Digital Revolution led to the emergence of new technologies and new business models, creating new opportunities to grow. This is a different business landscape where things change much faster. Going after new opportunities requires companies to be fast, operate differently, and get better at innovating. This is in the context of the digital era that innovation consulting firms have a role to play.

A new challenge: If I had to continue the timeline and talk about a third era, I would call it the Sustainability Revolution. Now, most innovation projects have components of sustainability. This is driven by changes in customers’ expectations as well as stricter regulations.

The objectives of innovation consulting

Every company faces different challenges when they try to innovate. That means that innovation consulting has to show up in many different ways to help them.

Go from spotting new business opportunities to generating ideas to seizing those opportunities to helping incubate and build new products, services, and businesses.

What innovation consulting firms do
Innovation consulting covers a large range of activities that are all necessary to better innovate

Let me share a non-exhaustive list of what an innovation consultancy does.

Spotting new opportunities

A large part of innovation consulting is about helping companies make sense of what’s happening in the world, gain insight of what their customers want, and turn all of this into seizable opportunities.

Read more: If you want to see how companies spot new opportunities, have a look at my latest book, The Opportunity Lenses.

Generating ideas

Another challenge for companies is to come up with ideas that are worth being implemented.

The trick is that to come up with good ideas, you must have lots of bad ideas. But then, you need to eliminate the bad ones quickly, without killing a good one too early.

In reality, we’re far from the infamous brainstorming session.

  • Done well, generating ideas involves many people in the company to bring a diversity of perspectives and connect new ideas with existing initiatives.
  • It’s iterative in the way it uses several testing cycles to refine those ideas by involving potential customers, suppliers, and employees.

This process is very much iterative.

To sum up: You start with a starter idea and push it through until it becomes a fully formed concept with an action plan attached to it.

De-risk the next steps

This is a critical objective of any innovation project: landing the work in the organisation.

For new ideas to be implemented, several things need to happen:

  • They must be connected to the overall strategy and possibly to existing initiatives and workstreams;
  • Executives must have confidence that the ideas are feasible, economically viable, and desired by the customers;
  • This new plan needs to be packaged into a narrative that’s easily digestable.

Most consultancies will talk about new trends, and cover the importance of being creative and advocate the adoption of a startup mindset.

It’s less frequent to meet consultants that truly emphasise the importance of how new ideas will live and grow in the company.

Note: The outcome isn’t always the internal implementation of an idea. It could also be acquiring a business that will help go after an opportunity.

Incubating the future

At the inception of the era of innovation firms, the focus was more on the strategy and the storytelling than on the actual delivery of the innovation.

To differentiate themselves from the competition and companies getting smarter at innovating, innovation consultancies started behaving more like design studios offering both the strategy and the delivery of innovation.

This happened through two ways:

  1. Building capabilities in-house by hiring designers and software engineers;
  2. Joining larger consulting groups that already have delivery capabilities.

The holy grail of any innovation engagement: Consultancies aspire to go from spotting an opportunity to imagining new ideas to partnering with the client to deliver the innovation and generate revenue and sustainable impact.

Alternatives to innovation consulting

Innovation consultancies aren’t the only entities that partner with companies to push their innovation agenda. There is a whole suite of partners that do that.

Companies can also set up programmes that can help do this internally.

Other innovation partners

There’s a long list of partners that can help companies to innovate and be more innovative.

Alternatives to innovation consulting
There are many alternative ways that can help companies to get better at innovating

Let me present some of them.

  • Market research firms provide insight into new trends and emerging needs to make it easier to spot new business opportunities.
  • Media companies (e.g. The Economist, The Wired, The Information, Axios) can run projects that leverage their reporting know-how to inform executives on new trends and help them form a view of how the business landscape is likely to evolve.
  • Venture capital firms share their views on what they believe will be the important technologies and business models of the future (though possibly biased by their own investments). They can also facilitate the intro of the startups in their portfolio.
  • Startups play a big role in helping experiment with new technologies and new business models. They can do this through partnerships with larger companies or as being part of a corporate venture portfolio. This may even lead to the company acquiring the startup.
  • Freelancers tend to play the same role as innovation consultancies, but they are often more specialised and don’t cover such a large range of competencies.

As you see, executives can rely on a wide range of partners to encourage innovation within their companies. Each kind brings its own advantages and disadvantages.

Keep in mind: There is no silver bullet. What’s relevant depends on the challenges that the company faces, and what its executives need to explore the future.

Internal initiatives

There are also many solutions that can be developed internally.

Internal initiatives to foster innovation
Companies can a do a lot of things internally to challenge their existing models and explore new ideas

Let me mention a few of them:

  • Internal incubators encourage employees to become intrapreneurs and run a startup project within the company.
  • Corporate venturing is a way for companies to partner with startups by investing and bringing new expertise and capabilities into .
  • In-house consulting plays the role of an innovation consultancy, but it is ran by employees of the company.
  • Hackathons are events where employees (and often customers and partners) get together for a few days in order to solve a specific challenge or answer a question about the future.
  • Open Innovation includes hackathons but also other ways to involve customers and partners in solving current challenges and encouraging innovation.

This isn’t an exhaustive list. But it captures the main initiatives that you can find in large companies.

Note: In larger organisations, it’s frequent to see that these internal initiatives are actually run by partners such as freelancers or consultancies.

The unique approach of innovation consulting

When you compare innovation consulting to other alternatives, a few things stand out:

  • There isn’t a set type of project. Innovation consulting is flexible and projects are tailored to fit the challenges of the organisation.
  • It brings end-to-end support. Innovation consulting can touch any part or all parts of the innovation journey, while other alternatives tend to be solutions that help accelerate a specific step.
  • It requires a multi-disciplinary team. Innovation consulting isn’t the work of hyper specialised teams. You won’t find a research team and a product team. These capabilities are blended within the team that drives a project, and each team member tends to be a jack-of-all-trades.

All these characteristics make innovation consulting easier to deploy, as you can tailor how you help a company.

But, it also makes it less scalable, as you need to design a different process for each project you sell. The consultancy must also make sure that it recruits top performers to deliver the work.

More about innovation consulting firms: If you’re interested in innovation consulting, have a look at this list of some of the top innovation consultancies.

Get a job in innovation consulting

Over the last few years, I’ve had such a great ride working in innovation, solving some of the most interesting challenges that large companies are facing.

If you’re interested in joining the space, I encourage you to read my reflections on how to get a job in innovation consulting.

You can also support this type of content by having a look at my two books about innovation:

  1. The Value Mix will help you learn how to create new value propositions
  2. The Opportunity Lenses will tell you how to identify new business opportunities

How to Get a Job in Innovation Consulting (7 Top Tips to Join a Consultancy)

How to get a job in innovation consultingGetting a job in innovation consulting is tricky.

Innovation consultancies are very selective, and there aren’t many roles.

To help you get a job as an innovation consultant, I have organised what you need to do in seven steps to share a lot of top tips.

In this article, I answer these good questions.

1. Understand the innovation space

First, you need to have a clear understanding of what innovation consulting means.

What’s innovation consulting all about?

Innovation consulting is the practice of helping organisations spot new opportunities and create new products, brands, and/or businesses.

Read more: If you’re interested in joining the space, I encourage you to read my reflections on what innovation consulting is all about.

Who tends to work in innovation consulting

Due to the complex nature of innovation, this type of consulting is at the cross-road of many disciplines:

  • Economics
  • Psychology
  • Design
  • Marketing
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology
  • Engineering

As a consequence, innovation consultants tend to have very different backgrounds.

Innovation consulting job disciplines
Jobs in innovation consulting involve a mix of disciplines

You can see consultants who were lawyers, who studied business and administration, who are engineers, who worked in advertising, or who use to be entrepreneurs. Actually, innovation consultancies welcome a diversity of thinking. They welcome hiring people with less traditional backgrounds.

One thing though:

By definition, innovation is about dealing with the unknown.

It’s not about following a manual. It’s about exploring things that haven’t been done yet. So, the projects you’ll work on will require you to be curious, resourceful, and comfortable with not having answers to all the questions and challenges you’ll be facing.

Note: Your background matters less than you curiosity and your ability to deal with the unknown.

A creative or analytical job?

What do you think? An innovation consultant is more creative or analytical?

So?

Here’s a myth:

“Innovation consulting is all about having great ideas.”

It is a creative job—no doubt. But having ideas is just a small part of the job. Innovation consulting is also very analytical. And the key here is being able to balance both creativity and analysis.

  • There are moments when you need to be creative (e.g., to generate new ideas) and,
  • Other moments when you need to be more analytical (e.g., to generate insight from large datasets).

These are two types of skills that tend to be considered as “soft skills” and “hard skills”. And in practice, every innovation consultant needs to master both.

Innovation consulting job skills
Innovation consulting is a combination of creative and analytical skills

Remember: Innovation consultants are both creative and analytical, and they can quickly switch from one mode to the other.

Step 1: Do you research, and get a better understanding of what innovation consulting is all about. Here’s a starter with my reflections on this.

You can also have a look at The Opportunity Lenses. There, you’ll find more examples of how companies identify new business opportunities.

2. Map the consultancies you want to work for

Now, you want to find the innovation consultancies you want to work with.

But know that not every innovation consulting firm is the same.

There are a few elements that set them apart, including:

  • Their size
  • Countries where they have offices
  • Their areas of expertise
  • Industries they focus on
  • The clients they work with

The size of the consultancy is maybe the most important differentiator. Working for a smaller firm will feel very different compared to working with a larger one.

Make sure to have those elements in mind when you select the companies you want to work with.

Some innovation consultancies

Let me list a few leading global firms here.

Best innovation consulting firms
5 of the major global innovation consulting firms

You can find more innovation consultancies by doing some research on Google and LinkedIn.

?What If!

?What If! uses an experimentation-based approach to crack innovation challenges and help its clients build new sources of revenue.

Originally started in the UK, the company has two big offices in New York and London (with lots of work in Europe) and a smaller one in Shanghai.

One book to read: The Science of Serendipity by Matt Kingdon

Network: Accenture (American tech consulting company)

(If you read the blog frequently, you may know that I have been running innovation projects at ?What If! for more than five years.)

IDEO

IDEO leans more towards design with strong focus on product innovation. They’re known for having popularised the design thinking methodology.

Originally from the US, the company has a strong American presence and smaller offices in Europe.

One book to read: Creative Confidence by Tom and David Kelley

Network: Kyu (Japanese creative collective)

ReD Associates

ReD Associates tends to focus more on insight and market research to inform strategic decisions. They make a real emphasis on sociology and ethnographic studies.

Originally from Denmark, the company is also present in the US.

One book to read: The Moment of Clarity by Christian Madsbjerg

Network: Cognizant (American tech consulting firm)

Frog Design

Frog Design also uses design as a catalyst for innovation.

Originally from the US, the company has offices in Europe and Asia.

Two books to read: A Fine Line by Hartmut Esslinger and How to Kill a Unicorn by Mark Payne

Network: Capgemini (French tech consulting company)

Note that Farenheit212 merged with Frog Design. Farenheit212 was used to be known for following a process that distinguishes between “magic” (insight and creativity) and “money” (business strategy).

Farenheit212

Farenheit212 follows a process with the distinction between “magic” (insight and creativity) and “money” (business strategy), where consultants specialise in one or the other bucket.

Originally from the US, the company has a big office in New York and a smaller one in London (with lots of work in Europe).

One book to read: How to Kill a Unicorn by Mark Payne

Network: Capgemini (French tech consulting company)

Selecting the right companies

As you Make sure you apply to firms that fit with who you are, what you want to be working on, and where you want to be after.

Jan Chipchase, author of The Field Study Handbook, listed 100 questions you should ask yourself or your future employer. It’s worth reading for inspiration.

Step 2: Make a spreadsheet with all the innovation consultancies you could work with (based on where their offices are located and recruitment policies).

You can use this list of some of the top innovation consulting firms to help start your research.

Then, select the ones you want to work with (according to size, type of work, industry focus, and clients).

3. Build your portfolio

Here’s something important to know:

Innovation consulting firms hire doers–someone who is fueled by an entrepreneurial spirit and likes making things happen.

From resume to portfolio in innovation consulting

What’s the best way to show that?

Demonstrate that you’ve been running projects and delivering meaningful work.

I call this the Portfolio Mindset.

It’s not about the job titles you had. It’s about the work you’ve been delivering—your impact in the world.

The Portfolio Mindset
Like a designer, showcase the impact and results of your work, not just the activities

Designers use portfolio to illustrate what they are capable of. It’s an effective way for them to show the results of their work.

The Muse puts it well:

“Working in a role where your product isn’t visual—like sales, product management, and the like—shouldn’t keep you from having a portfolio to show off your stuff. You just have to think a little more creatively.”

As an innovation consultant, you should be able to do the same. Show that you’ve run projects that have delivered something meaningful.

This is how you’ll stand out.

How to design your portfolio as an innovation consultant

An innovation consultant, you need to be able to make things real, i.e., illustrate visually abstract elements such as ideas or processes.

Here’s what I recommend to create your portfolio:

  1. Build a portfolio of case studies
  2. Add visual elements to your case studies

Doing this will help you convey your messages much more powerfully.

Build a portfolio of case studies

Choose the projects you’re the most proud of. This can be an entrepreneurial project, a side project, something you did in a previous job, or some volunteering.

And explain:

  • The backstory: What was the context?
  • The process: How did you go about it? What was your role?
  • The output of your projects: What were the impact and the results?

As you can see, the case studies turn activities into projects.

Add visual elements to your case studies

Illustrate the process and results with photos, drawings, or mock-ups.

Are there any visual elements you can share that would make the impact of your work look more real?

How to design a portfolio as an innovation consultant
Having a portfolio of project and showcasing the impact makes a real difference

Being able to demonstrate the impact and results will increase your ability to impress your future employer. If you can’t use any visuals, you could also use quotes or numbers to illustrate what you did and the output of your work.

Step 3: Gather all the things you’ve and built to create your portfolio.If you feel that your portfolio is a bit empty, be creative and explore things you could do (e.g. solving the challenges of a local business or a charity, running your own project, or publishing audio or video content).

Note that you can do many things that do not require you to have a job to build an interesting portfolio.

4. Find job openings or get under their radar

Innovation consulting firms tend to list job openings on their own website. And you can find many openings on recruitment platforms such as LinkedIn and Indeed.

These are the obvious places to start.

But let me share a secret:

Many consultancies work with headhunters to find the right candidates, especially the smaller ones. So, you may want to get in touch with local recruiting firms to see if they have heard of any openings. For example, have a look at Bamboo Crowd (if you’re in the UK).

Here’s another tip:

It’s easier to reach out directly to senior people who work at smaller firms. You may want to find ways to connect on LinkedIn, or by attending events or webinars that the firm organises. Make sure to polite, well prepared, and respectful of their time.

Note: Innovation consultancies tend to use different names for innovation consultant: ?What If! calls them “Inventors” and IDEO uses the term “Business Designer“.)

Step 4: Check company websites, explore recruitment platforms, and get in touch with recruiting firms, and connect with the recruitment teams of the consultancies.

5. Prepare yourself for the interviews

There’s no set process. Unlike management consulting where case study interviews are very formal. Every innovation consultancy tends to have its own way of interviewing applicants.

My suggestion is to prepare yourself across three areas: innovation, product management, and management consulting.

To get a job at innovation consultancy, there are a few basics you need to know:

  1. Some frameworks that will help you organise your thinking
  2. Advice to nail your job interviews
  3. A better understanding of how consulting works (from a recruitment and a sales perspective)

Here’s a list of some good books that cover these three important topics related to innovation consulting.

Innovation frameworks to better organise your thinking

Best books about innovationThere are many good books about strategy, marketing, and innovation.

As a starter, I recommend the following two books. They will give you a good set of frameworks.

The Value Mix: Create Meaningful Products and Services for Your Audience

The Value Mix equips you with a robust framework for creating new value propositions (i.e. new products and services).

Why read this book: It’s important to have the tools to translate a market research into actionable insight and turn ideas into a proper product strategy.

Get The Value Mix here.

(I wrote The Value Mix as a support for lectures I give to Masters and MBA students who are interested in entrepreneurship, venture capital, and consulting.)

Business Model Generation

Business Model Generation gives you a conceptual tool that many firms use for business modelling.

Why read this book: It’s crucial to understand the components of the business model of a company.

Get Business Model Generation here.

Advice to nail your job interviews

Best books about job interviewsHere are two books that will significantly increase your abilities to manage a job interview.

Active Interviewing: Branding, Selling, and Presenting Yourself to Win Your Next Job

Active Interviewing was a revelation for me. It reframed how I understood the process of interviewing and completely changed the way I prepared and went to an interview.

Why read this book: This book will change the way you show up in an interview and boost your chances of landing the job.

Get Active Interviewing here.

Cracking the PM Interview: How to Land a Product Manager Job in Technology

Cracking the PM Interview gives you a lot of advice on how to prepare yourself to answer questions the interviewers will ask you.

Why read this book: The way innovation consultants are interviewed is very close to the way product managers are interviewed.

Get Cracking the PM Interview here.

Insight into how consulting firms hire people and sell their services

Best books about consultingMany innovation consultancies are now part of larger networks owned by management consulting firms. It is important to understand how these companies are used to hire consultants and sell their services.

Case Interview Secrets

Case Interview Secrets digs into the many details on the hiring process and shares many simple frameworks for solving the infamous “consulting case studies”.

Why read this book: The standard way that a management consulting firm interviews applicants has inspired a lot of innovation consultancies. So, you should be fully aware of how it works.

Get Case Interview Secrets here.

Rain Making: Attract New Clients No Matter What Your Field

Rain Making dives into the many ways consultants can build their reputations and grow a network in order to sell their services.

Why read this book: This is a great read for the more senior people who want to get into innovation consulting, as they will be expected to sell projects.

Get Rain Making here.

Step 5: Read books about innovation and about job interviews to prepare yourself.

You can also do mock interviews with friends or classmates. There are companies that offer training. Note that some universities also offer coaching (via their career service or student societies).

6. Plan the questions you want to ask

An interview goes both ways: you’re as much interviewing them, as they are interviewing you.

Each innovation consulting firm is different. And so, you want to better understand what they value, how they work, whom they work for. Also, you may have questions about the recruitment process and the onboarding experience.

Here are some topics you may want to dive into:

  • Their IP and methodology
  • The industries they’re involved in
  • The type of project they work on
  • Their portfolio of clients
  • The kind of people they hire
  • The way they’re structured
  • Their values and culture

Step 6: Do you research first. Prepare a list of questions based on what you couldn’t find online. Have a balance set of questions about the culture, the work, and the recruitment process (if anything is unclear to you).

Make sure to ask the questions in an informal. Don’t make it feel like you’re interviewing the interviewer. ;)

7. Wow the recruiters during the interview

Let me debunk a myth:

An interview is not about showing how smart and amazing you are. Actually, the more you are trying do to this, the more likely you will come across as pretentious or insecure.

Instead, be human and friendly. Make them feel like you’d be a great person to work with. You want them to think: “I’d enjoy working with this person”.

Step 7: Pay attention to how you come across when you meet new people in a professional context.

You may want to do mock interviews with people you don’t know, practice networking at an event, or take some improv classes. (The last option is a lot of fun, and I recommend it a lot!)

Interested in reading more?

Subscribe to my newsletter to get more content like this! :)

You can also support this type of content by having a look at my two books about innovation:

  1. The Value Mix will help you learn how to create new value propositions
  2. The Opportunity Lenses will tell you how to identify new business opportunities