Why do Consultants Always Talk About Mountains?

If I had a nickel for every consultant who told me I should see her as a Sherpa, I’d be well on my way to Cabo on L. Ron Hubbard’s yacht. Which I’m not. Because instead of nickels I get Christmas gifts like this one:

It’s a music compilation entitled ‘Everest Within’, and I got it from the consultants at CoCoCo. The sleeve of the CD features a curious excerpt from Steven Covey’s book “The 8th Habit”:

The greatest and most inspiring mountain climbing achievements in history are not so much stories of individual achievement, but stories of the extraordinary power of a unified, talented and prepared team that stays loyally committed to one another and to their shared vision in the end.

One might argue that this is simply the result of what happens when you recruit copywriters at the local elementary school. But even if that’s the case, the folks at CoCoCo still deserve to take some heat for the lack of creativity. And for being the billionth company in their sector to use the mountain metaphor.

Now it might come as a surprise to you that a company that charges good money for identifying differentiating market positions, tries so hard to speak like everyone else in their sector. On the other hand, this isn’t the first consultancy handing out advice to others that they would never dream of taking themselves.

I’m just as fond of stories as the next guy. And I’ve told quite a few myself. As a teenager I would make up all sorts of stuff about myself in the hope that I could take home the girl at the bar. This approach might have worked on the short term, but it also had it’s downsides.

Perhaps the mountain metaphor would be justified if it built on a real life experience. But it’s not. o one from CoCoCo has climbed a mountain. The closest they’ve been to Everest was while reading Covey in privacy of their own home.

If one of the partners had climbed the mountain – or even if the consultancy had bankrolled an exhibition (there are plenty of climbers out there). This is what I call Corporate Method Acting, and it might seem like a superficial strategy. But in fact, acting the piece can transform entire organizations. But there has to be action.

But what I really find unnerving is how Covery’s excerpt is interpreted:

Were Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay the conquerors of Mount Everest? No, they were merely two talented and fortunate members of the successful 1953 British Everest Expedition.

I beg your pardon? Sure, I know that the endeavor involved over 400 people, but do you know how much it takes to climb Mt. Everest today? I can only imagine what it took for the pioneers. Although the 362 porters that took part in the expedition were important, none of them participated in the infinite hours of planning, fund raising and preparation. Climbing the mountain is a feat itself, but the planning is at least as exhausting.

If CoCoCo had used their own story they might actually have touched me. They could have gotten a point across. And if not anything else, they could have differentiated themselves from their mountain-climbing-story-telling peers.

To be perfectly honest; it wasn’t until I stopped making up stories in the bar that I really got laid.