If we consider the parable of the sower, we tend to think that the problem of innovation is not enough seeds. But the true big problem is not enough good ground. Every city and organization I know has tons of seeds raining down on them every day. I’m constantly amazed at the incredible innovative thinking and ideas that I come across in practically every city I visit. The problem is that most of those seeds are landing on the rocks or in the weeds.
But as a consultant, I was a little surprised by this:
Consultants … exist outside the org chart. To steal a phrase, they stand behind a “veil of ignorance” about their status in the hierarchy. Consultants take great pains to maintain this, which is one reason why consultants have such nebulous, generic titles. …
In fact, I hate to say this, but a lot of times all consultants do is talk to middle managers at the client and document up what they’re told for higher level consumption. That’s one reason middle management particularly despises consultants.
True, but this can also be why middle management sometimes loves consultants. When I start exploring a client agency's issues, I sometimes find that some mid-ranking planners have already figured out what needs to be done, but aren't able to get their insight up through the layers to the executives. My role is sometimes to be that conduit. Obviously, I don't pass on ideas that I don't think make sense. I'm expected to reach my own professional judgment about the best way to reach the agency's goals, and I do. But if that judgment happens to match what certain mid-level staff already know, and sometimes it does, then yes, in presenting my recommendations to the executive I'm also presenting theirs.
Obviously, the people above them who were blocking those ideas may not appreciate it, but this is why "middle management" is a relative and nebulous term, not unlike "middle class."