Joho the Blogadvice Archives - Joho the Blog

January 8, 2010

Advice as process

Marginal Revolution has a terrific post about giving advice.

I find myself conflicted about the topic. Although I am an occasional consultant and adviser, I don’t think of myself as giving advice. Sometimes I know stuff (or think that I do) or have opinions that I’ll offer if asked (or, in a blog post, unasked): “I had bad luck with this vendor,” or “Don’t over-specify it at launch, so it can be more emergent,” or “I use Kayak. It’s faster and it doesn’t clutter itself up trying to sell me stuff.” I suppose those all count as advice, but they don’t feel like very interesting cases of advice: The first is a datum with an implied conclusion, the second is a bromide, and the third is a personal preference with a justification statement. I think of “giving advice” as something loftier, larger, and more coherent.

And that larger sense of advice seems to me not to be a self-contained activity, but a process and a social interaction. Giving advice generally (?) means helping someone try on futures. “What would it be like if …?” Maybe at the end of that there’s a recommendation, but that recommendation is the least interesting part of the advice, because it only says, “And here’s what I think.” That’s why I’ve never been able to come up with a “Seven Steps to Miscellaneousness or Cluetrainhood” that would have helped my books.

Anyway, I liked Marginal Revolution’s post, and especially liked the recognition that giving advice is a social activity, not merely a transfer of purported knowledge.