I am a ‘strawberry jam’ consultant. My consulting has lumps that cannot be spread too thin. My work cannot be infinitely diluted, like grape jelly can be spread. The law of strawberry jam is part of Gerald Weinberg’s advice to consultants, which I discovered two years ago via Niels Pflaeging, who created the image below to show the different types of consulting, one for individuals and the other for big consultancies.
“Not having lumps, grape jelly is perfect for processing through manufacturing machines. It’s that lumpy third dimension—the depth—that makes mass production impractical. Grape jelly spreads infinitely thin, so the consumer can color a predictable number of slices of toast out of a single sterilized plastic container.” – Gerald Weinberg
Weinberg states that “Young visionaries are discouraged … because they would like to believe that their message would remain thick as they spread it far and wide.” As an individual practitioner, who sometimes collaborates with small teams of consultants, I have learned that all I have to sell is myself. My message is the depth of my experience. It is not wide across dozens of industries or hundreds of clients.
After 13 years engaging readers and clients, I know that what I sell is unique. For example, there is little that resembles personal knowledge mastery offered by the large consultancies. I believe it is due to the fact that PKM is not reliant on a technology, so the potential to sell software or software as a service is not there. In addition, PKM takes time to master. It is not a quick fix and takes more than a single quarter to change behaviours. Only courageous clients are willing to invest in long, and potentially painful, change processes.
I have developed a deep understanding of PKM and the various models, processes, and practices that can support it. This is one of the lumps in my jar of strawberry preserves. My lumps do not not spread thin. My advice to independent consultants is to find your lumps, make them deep and sticky, and stay true to your course. It will not guarantee success, but competing with grape jelly is a sure road to failure.