Why do Consultants Perform Better than Academic Advisers?
As a young consultant I wondered why my colleagues were so skeptical about the research methods I had learned in academia. ‘Don’t trust academic methods in the context of consulting’ they warned me. ‘Economic theory won’t help you much. Talk with your client or with experts instead. They will give you more relevant knowledge than 20 scientific articles together.’ These and other consultant “lessons” conflicted with the beliefs and expectations I had as I left university with a Master’s degree in economics and philosophy. I believed in the importance of universal standards of morality and had developed a sense for complexities. I had learned to respect theory, the rigor of research methods and the importance of legitimizing conclusions. I was used to the time needed for reading and thinking. However, I considered the detached scientific attitude as problematic. I could not identify with that, nor could I recognize many assumptions of economic theories by introspection. Working as a consultant was an opportunity to see economic theory and academic methods with new eyes. Let me summarize some of my consultant experiences at KPMG Bureau voor Economische Argumentatie to give you a first impression of the professional ethos of consultants. The same experiences inspired me to undertake the “applied” philosophical research that resulted in this book. MANY MORALITIES The first assignment I had to work on was about the economic impact of addiction treatment. The Dutch government regularly questions if addiction treatment is worth the price. Most addicts relapse after treatment. The...