Monday, February 13, 2023

Consulting as the Big 'Con'


Mariana Mazzucato made a huge splash with her book, The Entrepreneurial State. She argued that there are high-risk, breakthrough ideas such as the Internet that could never have happened with massive funding of the initial creative work. In an interview with FT, she takes on consulting firms, the McKinseys, BCGs and the rest.

Her point is not the usual one about consulting firms not adding much value: as the old chestnut goes, a consultant is somebody who looks at your watch and tells you the time. No, her point is more nuanced. She says that governments are becoming too dependent on consulting firms for ideas. As a result, governments are taking enough responsibility and doing worthwhile work. In the process, the civil services are not attracting the brightest.  

I don’t think that’s true of the IAS. The beauty of India’s competitive exams is that the talent pool is so incredibly large that when you are looking to fill, say, 150 slots out of half a million applicants, you are bound to get incredibly good talent. The IAS, in my view, still gets some of the best talent in the country. But that could also be because our government hasn’t developed the UK sort of dependence on consulting firms! Or, there is so much of work to be done in government that if even if you farmed out work to consultants, there would be a great deal left for government to do.

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