Outcomes reflect the change in the external environment we would like to achieve in the future. By definition, we do not entirely control this change. However, making the right decisions today could help us achieve our desired outcomes in the future. Thus, for instance, USA.GOV would like more citizens to gain access to government services online, whereas New York City would like to reduce the inequalities between schools in the district.
Participants are knowledgeable crowds who know what works and can help decision-makers take action more productively. They can be stakeholders (who might be affected by a decision), authority figures (whose approval is required to deliver change), or knowledge-holders (who have studied the field or have relevant experience). Not all participants will end up providing answers in the project.
Answers, contributed by the participants, represent the knowledge that conveys necessary changes to achieve an outcome. Answers can be communicated in various online and offline channels (such as website, emails, text messages, roundtables, phone calls), but they are always in response to a question.
Highlights are excerpts from an answer that reflect proposed courses of action. Participants or admins create highlights, which can each be a maximum of 200 characters in length. Highlights should emulate the answer’s language, although direct quotes are not necessary. We recommend that highlights additionally express the “between the lines” meaning, as intended by the participant who wrote the answer.
An insight embodies what works; it is the “understanding of the true nature of something” (Merriam-Webster), which helps us realize what action might lead to the desired outcome. In a consulting project, an insight is based on one or more highlights and leads to a decision. Insights are not trivial, have broad implications, and often shed a different light on our reality.
Decisions reflect changes in the way we currently do things. A decision should include reallocating resources, issuing regulations, changing methods, or reforming an organization’s structure. Each of these four elements helps us deliver the outcomes we would like to achieve. In a consulting project, a decision is based on an insight.
We measure the impact of a consulting project by the change in the decisions made, and we ask for advice in order to make better decisions. Hence, an impactful project is one in which at least one of the insights changed decisions. A project without an impact is a project in which the insights helped to support the decisions, but never changed anything.