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Friday, April 20, 2012

Advice – The Give and Take


Do people ever offer you advice?

How valuable is it when you request it? When unsolicited?

Earlier this week I heard from an entrepreneur – he had an idea, started a company, and successfully sold it in four years. He would make a change if he did another start-up: during the planning for the start-up, he would plan the exit strategy as well. In addition to avoiding problems with exiting the business, his experience was the entry and exit planning together would have helped him better focus on how to delivery the services more effectively.

For me, this was a useful data point in business planning. My experience in planning the start-up has been total absorption in the up and running phase. Later changes were needed to complete the spin up and provide efficient delivery of services. Some in & out planning could have avoided later modifications.

Why was this advice credible and of value?

It was grounded in experience and offered as 'I would' not as a 'you should'.

Is ego the reason for resisting 'you should' advice? No – in the above story, the individual knows what his situation was and offered that he would do things differently for another start-up. How can a casual observer offer specific advice ('you should') without knowing the details of my problem?

My acceptance would be different had the individual offered his interpretation of principles or approaches done by others, suggesting that next time he would do things according to this 'new' approach. It is a data point without verification – his theory but not his experience. Is it lessons from the past – no longer applicable in the New Normal - can't tell from a theory.

Unsolicited advice often comes with a preface of 'you should'. This causes me to wonder about the underlying purpose for offering the advice, in addition to its applicability to my situation – if there is an actionable situation. There is usually an abundance of unsolicited advice offered about how to improve your golf game or to change political, corporate, or government operations – valuable?

Hearing how others have faced similar situations adds to our knowledge, but does not substitute for personal experience.

We learn by doing. We learn a great deal by avoiding or recovering from mistakes.

This is experience.

Advice: What's your experience?

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