Tips for commissioning external research

If you’re asked to commission an research project it is natural to feel a little scared but don’t panic. Yes, you are talking about the unknown but you are also working to build new products, services, campaigns, and processes to grow profit and make the world better for people.

Done right research can set the scene for real growth in profit by truly delighting your customers and understanding how your offer may resonate. Here are my four top tips to help you when commissioning a project:

  1. Ask others for a recommendation. While the perception is of consultancy being quite an old-fashioned service, this is rapidly changing. Most consultancies will now have referral schemes, even be set up on online reviews. Ask people you trust, who they have used. Ask what they liked and didn’t about a certain consultant and their style. Crucially ask them about the changes the consultancy delivered for you.
  2. Try before you buy. Getting on with the consultant is crucial. It is worth asking for a free 2-hour face to face session. You can use this to work together scoping out a problem or for getting the consultancy to come in and chat with senior colleagues. Use their skills and experiences to allay fears.
  3. Ask for an ‘innovation contract’. This sets out clearly in writing the expectations between your organisation and the consultancy about what the project will do, how it will operate and also how innovation is tied into your corporate strategy. It is easy to be bamboozled by ‘the theatre of innovation’ whereby a tonne of post-it notes and fancy powerpoint presentations are used to distract from a lack of progress. Focus on the real change made by innovation consultancy, not just what the outputs..
  4. Ensure you get a ‘kill clause’ when you commission the project. A ‘kill clause’ ensures that either side can end a contract, for a fee, if it is no longer working. In our experience, having this spelled out upfront prevents it from ever being needed.
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