Future Thought: Shannon Adkins on the Next 5 Years in Consulting

Innovation + Transformation Purpose Work Culture

Future State CEO Shannon Adkins has more than 20 years of experience working with major San Francisco Bay-area companies. Here are a few of her thoughts on the trends we’ll see in transformation management in the next five years.


1. Why is management consulting going to be more important than ever as we move into the future?

Shannon Adkins: As we move toward a data-driven world, and we have more tools and technologies at our fingertips, I think we’re going to crave and demand more connected collaborators, more empathy, and intuition-driven insights.

Big Data and AI may be the answer for many of the challenges we face, but data without context is useless. Management consultants will need to bring intuition and insight to bear for truly effective innovation and transformation. Where data analysis, even truly sophisticated analysis, is a backward look, we will need to glean insights, apply expertise, and take an agile and adaptive approach to laying the path forward, enabling new patterns to emerge.

2. People-focused, purpose-focused: Why do these concepts form the basis of success for cutting-edge companies?

SA: Twenty-first century leaders know they can no longer expect an engaged and innovative workforce without a compelling purpose — and team members know it’s possible to have a great career and do great things in the world at the same time.

We don’t have to sacrifice profit for purpose. We can create an economy that works for everyone. Today’s cutting-edge companies get this. They see the interdependence of it all. Cutting-edge businesses must have workforce practices, environmental sustainability and community impact in focus— alongside profits and growth—to truly be sustainable.

3. What’s an unknowable variable for the management consulting industry in the next five years?

SA: The impact of AI on our industry — how much smarter will these systems be? How can we get better by leveraging AI to inform our recommendations? How mainstream will these solutions become?

4. What’s the № 1 thing consultants will be talking about in five years that most people aren’t focused on today?

SA: In five years, every consultant will be talking about business as a force for good, and how to build virtuous cycles in which business, people and the planet all thrive.