The Unpalatable Taste of Innovation Consultancy


By Neal Archbold, Head of Innovation & Strategy at Big Radical

I don’t like sprouts, onions and ice-cream.


When it comes to sprouts, I am not alone. I find them bitter, unpleasantly textured and a blight on my otherwise favourite meal of the year. Like many others however, I tolerate them once a year, for the sake of tradition and family harmony. 

Onions are a tricky one. An ingredient that is so widespread in cuisine and the cornerstone of many a recipe. I totally appreciate their importance and actually don’t mind the flavour. But texturally they make my skin crawl and any vegetable that makes you cry is telling the potential eater something in my opinion. Some people get my perspective, many, many don’t.

And now ice-cream. I have never been a massive fan from childhood and despite the countless disbelief from 99% of people I meet and tell who usually LOVE it, I am fixed in my resolve to always choose a different pudding.

However, they all have their place for the right person and at the right time, I get it.


When it comes to businesses, they often don’t have all the ingredients (or internal skills) they need to cook up a better strategy, a new product, manage a new risk or to meet a new customer need. Fact. Many technical experts are bought in from external agents: employment law, GDPR, tax advice, health and safety, marketing, design etc. etc. Some are sprouts, some are onions, some are ice-cream to the purchasers.

Still, no CEO would think twice about sourcing this “produce” and paying for this technical expertise to enrich the corporate recipe. The cupboard needs them at certain times of the year.


But innovation itself and the consultants who work in this area consistently seem to be an important ingredient that either sounds like you have to make a highly complex Croque en Bouche to remain in The Great British Bake Off or raises the gag reflex in the throats and therefore doesn’t make the Ocado order of the C-Suite shoppers.


Don’t take my word for it; according to Forbes:

97% of CEOs told PWC that innovation is a top priority, whilst also telling McKinsey that 94% of them are dissatisfied with their innovation programs.

So, the hunger is there, but the recipes are not proving to sate the empty bellies.


What is it about innovation and consultants that causes this collective corporate retching; the cost? the output? the terminology? Probably all of these.


I think it comes down to three major things:


  1. Innovation is a scary wordit’s seen as a complex ingredient to work with like Ras El Hanout.

  2. The results of consultancy engagement are not tangible enough…. an expensive meal that tastes naff doesn’t get made again.

  3. Saying you need help with innovation may look like a sign of weaknessCan’t Cook, Won’t Cook.


At Big Radical, we are trying our hardest to disrupt consultancy to make innovation, design and rapid breakthrough the “turn-to” ingredients in the larders of business decision-makers and through our mantra of radical thinking, intelligent rebellion and learning through doing, we are convinced we have found a way to become the partner of choice for this.


Firstly, we are simplifying innovation.


Innovation isn’t always disruptive. Innovation is relative to the business’ starting position: not everything is an iPod, a drone or involves Blockchain. It’s about creating more value, meeting new needs or simply finding a better way of working. Building on the culinary theme; take a KitKat vs a KitKat Chunky: in reality a small change to the production process but has taken Nestlé into an entirely new category.


Secondly, we believe in helping businesses to fill blank pages.


Not only with conceptual answers but significant and rapid breakthroughs: meaning a positive and tangible step. For example, our Starter for 20 behavioural science programs have shown Big Radical can deliver tangible business results and brilliant prototypes in just 20 days.


Lastly, this activity can be difficult for businesses and we get that.


Internal structures, risk profile, governance and target delivery can simply make it easy to keep knocking out the same old meals. At Big Radical, we believe our approach to C-Suite partnering, small bite-sized engagements and collective learning through doing, means we can become a staple ingredient.

This is why Big Radical are excited about our Radical Thinkers CEO Dinner this February at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. Surely the perfect place to disrupt our collective palates, explore new flavours and challenge our tastes – both culinary and in terms of how we build better innovation in businesses together.

If you’ve enjoyed reading Neal’s thoughts and insights around business innovation or would like to hear more food related metaphors please contact