We write a fair number of white papers every year. As thought leaders, it is part of our job to share our thinking with independent financial professionals in order to advance the profession. In our consulting work, our clients often challenge us with thought provoking questions which open us to new ideas, help us to improve, and occasionally challenge basic assumptions behind the work that we perform. Sometimes questions are really out of left field and our curiosity leads us to an answer worth sharing.
On a recent consulting call, one of our clients surprised me with a really good question, “Why do you call them white papers?” I had to admit that I did not know. Fortunately, Google has lots of suggestions and likely answers, including this from Wikipedia:
A white paper is an authoritative report or guide that informs readers concisely about a complex issue and presents the issuing body's philosophy on the matter. It is meant to help readers understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision.
The term white paper originated with the British government, and many point to the Churchill White Paper of 1922 as the earliest well-known example under this name. In British government it is usually the less extensive version of the so-called blue book, both terms being derived from the colour of the document's cover.
None of this surprised me, though the historical element was interesting. What is surprising is that in the course of my research I discovered that there are other such color schemes commonly applied to written essays and thought pieces:
- A blue paper sets out technical specifications of a technology or item of equipment.
- A yellow paper is a document containing research that has not yet been formally accepted or published in an academic journal. It is synonymous to the more widely used term preprint.
- A green paper is a proposal or consultative document rather than being authoritative or final.
Green papers, it turns out, are a significant part of our work at FP Transitions. Although the term was never in our vocabulary, we are authors of over one hundred of these papers every year. Somewhat open-ended, they invite exploration and discussion, even questions. Also known as “consultation documents,” green papers often propose an implementation strategy.
Why do we write so many? We are continuously innovating and evolving the way that we deliver consulting services to independent financial professionals based on what we learn working with such a varied group of people and businesses.
Our most recent green paper is our Enterprise Consulting Project Charter, a document that provides short- and long-term strategies for our clients that specifically address their unique business growth goals and opportunities.