Values

Client interest first
Our clients are the only reason we exist, and their success is our motivation. Our value of “client interest first” is our compass in all our decision making. We only take on projects we genuinely believe will make a meaningful contribution to our client’s business interests.

Sokrates signing ceremony – 2011

Creative collaboration
We work in teams of consultants and clients. Our best outcomes result from a diversity of viewpoints, sparking creative ideas; we don’t do “smart work in isolation”. In our experience, the most effective learning and problem solving occurs in part from a systematic hard work and in part from “playing around” and trying and failing a lot. We don’t take ourselves completely seriously all the time.

Beliefs

Soft is hard
We believe the “softer” elements of business such as culture, human interaction, and capability influence business performance just as powerfully as “harder” elements such as structure, systems and process. We believe the “soft” can and should be planned and measured with as much careful attention as the “hard”.

Through the work itself
We believe the most effective way to work is typically also the most joyful, and we believe people are best engaged and motivated through the work itself. We don’t believe in any engagement approaches that are layered on top of work and are not an integral part of the work’s purpose. Finding meaning in work is possible at all levels and in all roles, and leaders can stimulate and promote pride in the work itself consciously to “obtain extraordinary results with ordinary people”.

Consulting Approach

Gates Foundation serving team

Senior practitioners
Almost all of our consultants have more than 10 years of experience, typically in top firms such as McKinsey & Company and Katzenbach Partners. We employ a low leverage model: we bring senior level experience and expertise to our clients without asking them to absorb younger staff who are still in need of much learning; our business model doesn’t require it.

Background facilitation
Our consulting approach is more advisory than prescriptive: we do not come up with “the answers”, but bring our insight and experience to raise the right questions that help our clients find their own best answers. We believe an 80% correct answer, executed with passion, is more valuable than a 100% great answer that leaders don’t really believe in. We facilitate our client’s process in the background, and we have no desire to get credit for the results – we only care that the results are achieved.

Teaching Approach

Master classes
Our formal training complements our consulting, and our training approach builds on the knowledge and experience that participants already have. Even beginners in a field bring some relevant insight from earlier work/life; we believe in meeting people where they are. Our classes are designed to feel very similar to the actual work experience, with much active trial and error; but we run these simulations in an environment that also focuses on learning and feedback, so the learning is faster than it would be from on the job experience only.

Sokratic teaching
The ancient Greek philosopher whom we named our firm after was famous for his facilitative teaching method: he asked his students questions to lead them to “give birth” to their own insight, rather than providing them with external insights. Our teaching method is much the same.

A client’s notes during one of our Top Team workshops