Consulting of the XXI Century: Coping with Complex Business Systems

Nuova Atlantide, Vol. 3, pp. 69-76, 2011

8 Pages Posted: 28 Mar 2012 Last revised: 5 Apr 2012

Date Written: December 28, 2011


The increase of the social and economic complexity causes frequent discontinuities and the rapid change of the business environment, triggering intense transformations of the competitive logics and of the capability of forecasting using traditional models. The new competitive reality is characterized by dynamism, connectivity, non-linearity and emergent properties, in other words by “complexity”.

The XX century’s myth of the “one best way” reveals its weaknesses and its inability to deal with the new emerging problems and opportunities, which, at the beginning of the XXI century, firms have to face. The traditional reductionist concept of “one best way”, based on the “replication of standards”, was a good approach to deal with complicated issues, but is not suitable today to deal with the complexity of the business system. There is no “instructions manual” to deal with complexity, there is not one “solution” to complex problems, there are strategies to deal with complexity and these strategies must involve the flexibility necessary to change and find sudden solutions to always new emerging problems. The traditional consulting skills are useless to forecast the future business scenarios; the growing complexity calls for new systemic skills able to give directions for the management of firms.

The new role of consultant cannot be based, like in the past, on the mere application of models and algorithms. Consultant must think and act beyond the models and the recognized standards they have been thought in business schools; they need to develop the ability to grasp the “sense of events” instead of just classifying them into predefined patterns. Today’s consultants need to think in terms of “possible” and deal with the “emergent”. The role of consultant must be proactive, in other words must not just deal with the threats of the business environment but should proactively shape the business environment by reading the signs of continuous change and moving fast to let them to become opportunities.

This paper will examine the main problems and constraints of traditional consulting and propose a new role and new skills that can be more effective for the consulting of the XXI century.

Keywords: Complexity, Consulting, Management

JEL Classification: M14, M10, M54

Suggested Citation

Dominici, Gandolfo, Consulting of the XXI Century: Coping with Complex Business Systems (December 28, 2011). Nuova Atlantide, Vol. 3, pp. 69-76, 2011, Available at SSRN:

Gandolfo Dominici (Contact Author)

University of Palermo - d/SEAS ( email )

Viale delle Scienze, edificio 13
Palermo, 90124

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