The Connection Between Consulting and Education

07 Sep

I have spent much of the last four years making connections between my marketing career and my academic pursuits in adult education. While I wondered at first if pursuing an M.Ed. after a 20 year career in marketing “was a hard left-hand turn down a completely new path,” I soon realized the myriad similarities. So it is again that I find myself trying try to wrap my head around the connection between consulting and education.

A few weeks before class started, I came across an interview with Dan McGinn, Senior Editor for Harvard Business Review, who wrote an essay entitled “Inside Consulting’s Black Box.”  During the interview, McGinn mentions a book by Martin Kihn who worked for a few years at Booz Allen, one of the big consulting firms. According to McGinn,

The book actually sheds a lot of light on the [consulting] industry… and [Kihn] really does describe what it’s like to live the life where you wake up at the crack of dawn on Monday, your suitcase is all ready, and you fly into some company you know nothing about and work really hard to try to figure out something smart to tell these people.

Exactly… and what does this have to do with adult education?

Peter Block says, “Your goal or end product in any consulting activity is some kind of change.”  And change is something I can easily connect to education. Change often requires the input of new information and some type of implementation phase where you get comfortable with what is new.

But change is scary, and let’s face it… who among us feels they handle change well? I admit, I don’t always. And yet I have been drawn to this field of adult education where things are changing so rapidly that one of the most talked about forces in education today — MOOCs — only came on the scene five years ago.

So how do I as an educator — consultant — facilitate change? How do I get someone comfortable with change — which has been described as “often unpredictable, absolutely unrelenting, and, more often than not, terribly unforgiving“?


I don’t know. But I’m here to find out.


Posted by on September 7, 2013 in ADLT 610


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4 responses to “The Connection Between Consulting and Education

  1. ajgordon2013

    September 15, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    Great post Joanne. I tend to look at organizational change from a leadership perspective. My quest is to understand the psychological and social aspects on how adults learn. Im a huge believer in change as a movement/process that begins with the culture of the organization. In order to consult, lead an organization to change, it is my belief that an understanding of the individuals and culture of the organization in its current state is a necessary starting point. Reading the “psychodynamics” chapter in Schein, really drove home some points of emphasis that I can use in my day to day as a consultant/leader. To be “flawless” you must hone skills in emotional intelligence in order to understand the needs/wants of clients, colleagues as well as subordinates. Without fully respecting and understanding this process of “learning” adults, one may be setting themselves up for failure. Adult Learning is full circle in my opinion.

  2. Wally Wallace

    September 15, 2013 at 9:55 pm

    As I shared briefly in class, “change” also seemed to me to be a big connector between consulting and education. I found a lot of this week’s readings related to the concept of change and how people respond to it, as Schein brought out so many great points about the importance of “timing”, building listening skills, strategies of inquiry, finding a balance between going with the flow and “constructive opportunism”. It occurred to me that the effective consultant must have very strong people skills! I have to admit, it made me reflect upon my own abilities and deficiencies in this area. I found myself wondering just how one might conduct a little self-assessment in this area in order to identify areas upon which one might improve. Some food for thought.


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