Open Up to Other People’s Ideas: Why Consultants and Clients Need Each Other
Written by Kimberly MacArthur Graham on June 4, 2014
Every summer, when I’m opening all my house windows to Colorado’s sublime climate, I linger at one particular locale. It is a large, front facing window with an arch of leaded glass. It’s not the beauty that stops me. It’s the engineering. We live in an old home, and the old front parlor comes complete with a “casket window.” Great for the 19th century funeral, but now that we’re not passing too many coffins though the front parlor, it presented a challenge. Both panes open, but the top arch greatly limits the movement of the bottom pane, which is also extremely heavy. We needed a storm window for insulation, but my husband was keen on having a functional screening system for the summer. He was obsessed.
Thanks to a local contractor—a window genius—we now have an amazing custom designed and built contraption. Now I can open the window’s bottom pane, swing open the storm window and secure it to the window frame. This allows me to slide in a screen, and then lower and latch the bottom window pane to secure it in place. I love this thing beyond understanding.
Just the other day, I remembered how hard I fought against this object of my affection. I told my husband that it would ruin the aesthetics of our house, that it was too expensive and we’d never use it, it would never work properly, etc. I was wrong on all counts, of course, but all I knew at the time was that this feature was incredibly important to my husband – so we pursued it. And I’m so glad that we did.
As professional service providers, we get asked all of the time for expert advice and recommendations. Clients expect us to know more than they do about marketing and publicity – so we work hard to keep up on research, trends, and tools. But as business consultants, that’s only half of our job. The other half is listening well so that we can extract and integrate their knowledge and vision into a truly successful solution. Artist Marcel Duchamp recognized the viewer’s critical role in completing the creative act. I’ve taken this dependency as my personal credo. I believe that clients and consultants need each other to be our best – and that the process of discovering that “best” is at least half the joy. This also applies to employees and employees, team members, etc.
So remain open to other people’s ideas, and you may be surprised (but I won’t be) when you create some of your very best work.
“All in all, the creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualification and thus adds his contribution to the creative act. This becomes even more obvious when posterity gives a final verdict and sometimes rehabilitates forgotten artists.” – Marcel Duchamp, The Creative Act (1957)