“Earn a Innovation Consulting Certificate.”Employers actively seek students that can work effectively on a team, self-manage and motivate, apply critical thinking skills to an unstructured problem, and communicate their recommendations. The ISU Innovation Consulting Community provides students with projects to develop these habits and skills. You will also have a real-world business use-case project experience to showcase during employment interviews, develop closing working relationships with peers and mentors for potential letters of recommendation and references, and earn a certificate in innovation consulting! Participants during fall term will first engage with online modules around project management, leadership, self-awareness, and innovation prior to engaging in the spring term with a project of their and their peers’ choosing. This experience is extracurricular but academic credit (independent study) may be available in consultation with your mentor and academic advisor. Due to limited space, preference for selection and participation is given to juniors and seniors and graduate students or to those with experience on a previous project. The chief criteria is a student’s capability meaning aptitude, desire, and available time.
Team Member RoleDownload Project Manager and other roles
Fall prep & Spring meetingsMeet with your team at least 3x in the fall term. You may meet with them more than 3x in fall but this is the minimum. In the fall, the purpose is to meet your team and then client, introduce yourself, ID an online platform in which to communicate for project duration, outline a spring meeting schedule where you can meet weekly and pick a meeting scheduling tool (e.g., Doodle). The intent of the fall preparation is to avoid delays in the spring and outline any major resources (contacts, information sources, information gathering methodologies such as survey development or interview guides) needed in the spring that will take time to schedule.
Client managementFor most ICC projects an organizational client will be involved. To maximize client satisfaction, clarify project goals at the outset (mid-fall is ideal) in conjunction with your mentor. Additionally, and very important, ask the client how often they prefer that the team checks in with them to provide them with updates, ask for feedback and further clarification, etc. Every organization has its own cadence (tempo), but at a minimum outside of at least one fall client clarification, the team should check-in (“gate post review”) with its client four additional times in the spring. Suggest: end of January, the middle of February, early March, and end of March. A gate-post review consists of sharing student team ideas, recommendations, etc. (in writing with verbal explanation ideally). Preferably, this is conducted face to face or via a telepresence product (Skype, etc.) but could also be done on a conference call. Your team can be provided with a conference call number. Please ask Dr. Peter Kaufman for this resource, if needed.
April SymposiumThe end of year Symposium at ISU will be in early April where your team will present its recommendations. The client may or may not be able to attend this event and an additional presentation day/time may be needed so please arrange well before Symposium to ensure that this non-Symposium presentation takes place.
Based on observations and experience by Andrew Bordewick, ICC Project Mentor and ISU Alumnus April 2018.
- Schedule team meeting times to meet in person on a frequent basis (weekly or bi-weekly at a minimum) and stick to that schedule. This helps with team formation, cooperation, and accountability, which will improve the quality of your work. Work as a team, and find ways that everyone can contribute.
- Work with the client to determine the scope of the project as soon as possible, including what they are expecting as a final deliverable. Start with identifying the final deliverable so that you know what you are ultimately responsible for, then work backward to plan the activities required to complete your project.
- Take time and make an effort to define terms when working with the client – this is absolutely essential! Your definition of a “marketing plan” may not be the same as their definition of a “marketing plan”. Be deliberate in talking through what they mean, what they want, what they are looking for. Ask for examples if they have any. The last thing you want to do is to work for 6 months, present your deliverable, and then find out the client was looking for something completely different.
- Be realistic and upfront with the client about your schedules, capabilities, capacity, etc. They may not have realistic expectations for a student project, or in some cases may underestimate your abilities. Talk through what your team is capable of doing and set proper expectations for what you will deliver.
- Create a timeline of activities for the entire project and meet every deadline. Assign tasks and hold each other accountable to ensure that you are progressing towards the final deliverable. If your timeline is too ambitious, or if you start to get behind, that is an indication that your project scope is too large and you need to reduce your activities and/or the planned deliverable. If a change in scope is required, have an open conversation with the client and come to an agreement on a revised deliverable.
- Establish a minimum frequency of communications with the client, and use the method that they prefer (phone, skype, email, in-person). Meet those minimum expectations for meeting check-ins, and then use email for questions between official meetings.
- Have the Project Manager be the funnel for all communications and single point of contact for the client. This makes things much easier for them.
- Keep your mentor informed. Carbon copy the mentor on all emails to the client.
- Use your mentor as a resource: bounce ideas; ask questions; have them proof-read surveys, documents, emails, etc; ask for advice on research methods. If you encounter problems with the client, ask for the mentor’s assistance in facilitation and communication.
- The mentor will not do any of the work for you. However, a short conversation with your mentor may point you in the right direction and make things much easier for you.
- The mentor may have other resources in their network that can help your team – experts in a certain field, knowledge about research methods, experience with software, industry contacts, etc.
- Meet with your mentor in person once a month at a minimum, and communicate via their preference (email, text, phone) in between meetings.
- Practice your final presentation multiple times at least 1 week before delivering to your client. Practice in front of a group of peers, another ICC group, your mentor, other student groups, a professor, etc. Get a range of feedback about your content, slide design, verbal delivery, etc. Iterate and improve!
- Keep a journal of your experience – things that go well, things that don’t go well, improvements made, your contributions to the team, interactions with the client, lessons learned, etc. This will give you excellent material to talk about “real world” consulting experience in future job interviews.