1. It’s about people.
If 6 years of management consulting taught me nothing, it's that people are key. Every problem, every issue is about a person. To get project across the line, you've got to understand who the stakeholders are, what they want and earn their respect. For start ups replace people with customer or user. Without clearly defining the external people that influence success, failure is inevitable.
2. You’ve got to understand people’s expectations, and it’s really hard
For consultants you've got stakeholders, for start-ups you've got users. You can pick any name you like, they are still people and although they say they know what they want, they probably don’t. Sure you can ask them, “what do you expect” or “what do you want” and they’ll give you an answer. They might be right, but more often than not they leave something out, and it’s usually critical. It’s not that people lie, they just don’t know. Here is my advice, don't ask, show. People know what they expect when you show them something they don't. The quicker a deliverable or UI design is put in front of someone, the quicker you'll know what they expect.
3. Structure, structure then structure
This is drilled into consultants at a young age. From PowerPoint to data analysis everything needs to be structured. Why? Because without structure, it’s hard to communicate, delegate, and solve complex problems. Watch any speaker for that matter… they don’t just talk, they talk to a structure. For start ups everything from UI design, to pitches, needs structure. Give somebody 6 things… they’re lost. Give them 6 things that relate to a central theme… they’ll get it. Structure is how we think, it’s how we break down problems. It lets us progress from simple to complex, without even knowing it. Anytime you’re doing something, and someone is confused. Ask yourself ‘how have I structured this?"
4. Ask yourself ‘so what’ for everything you do
They are lots of similarities between consulting and tech. Designing PowerPoint is kind of like designing a UI. Running a workshop is kind of like pitching. In all these situations people often focus on describing 'the what’, and then back it up with a ‘why'. Lots of people even include a ‘how that will work'. But people don't really care about any of this. People care about themselves, they want to you tell them ’so what’ or maybe more bluntly... 'why should I give a shit’. Every sentence, every email, needs to include a ‘so what’. This is the information that turns something interesting into something interesting for me.