Creativity vs. Consulting

In Life on May 9, 2016 by thebetweenthoughts

Management consulting is all about creating structure and forcing the ambiguous into some sort of logical framework.  Consultants specialize in turning chaos into order and synthesizing the complex into something simple.  The fuzzy edges and the blurry margins are generally sacrificed for the sake of a “clean” storyline.

It’s ironic that we use the term “storyline” in our presentations, since what we’ve developed is the antithesis of creativity.  If anything it’s the “anti-story”, as we’ve eliminated any room for interpretation or any chance of ambiguity in our message.

Going on 10 years of being in the management consulting field, I wonder if I have any creativity left in me.  My creative outputs will always be the things that I’m most proud of – the comic strips I made in grade school, the short stories I wrote in middle school, the screenplays that I wrote in high school.  These were initial sprouts within my creative garden.  But of course, like any good future-fearing Asian-American, I decided to go down the path of science and a respectable career once I started college.  The move to New York was an opportunity to rekindle those creative fires, but once again respectability, responsibility…and the cost of living in NYC, managed to snuff out those flames.

And now I wonder if a career of not allowing my mind to explore and imagine…of structuring and defining…has extinguished that creative spark for good.  Creativity isn’t exactly nurtured in a management consulting environment.  More often than not, we’re helping a large enterprise  manage their risks and prioritize their investments.  There really isn’t any room for bold thinking.  We’re just trying to dole out advice that isn’t going to adversely impact their bottom lines.

When you’re constantly organizing thoughts and finding logical threads, it limits your ability to be absurd.  But absurdity isn’t the key to new and original thought?  It’s the path to breaking free from worn down lines of thinking.  Do our clients want original thoughts?  I honestly don’t know…

With each new framework that I see or develop, another piece of my creative side is wiped away.  Another structured way of thinking eliminates the random idea that could lead to something special.  Maybe I’m just deluding myself into thinking that I had a creative side at all…

It’s a conflict that probably will not be solved anytime soon…but I wonder how much time I have left to debate it.



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