Taking AdviceBy definition the knowledge economy means more people are in need of advice. So too are people required to give that advice. For advice itself to be effective, however, both the receiver and giver need specific skills.

The assumption is that if I have a problem, I seek out someone who “knows the answer, or who can quickly and inexpensively arrive a an answer. This is why businesses make strategic hires and retain certain advisors. Companies who are able to solve problems quickly are called agile, in effect being able to create value on demand through effective advice.

If I am an advisor, my value is based on my being able to be in the right place at the right time with the right information. The more experience I have, the more situations I have seen, the more extensive my network, the more I will provide valuable advice.

These are necessary but not sufficient to create good advice.

The recipient of advice has to be willing to listen and at least consider the gist of the advice given. The conditions of how advice is sought and will be consumed are also important to specify up front. I may want information but not recommendations, or I need three alternatives but not a conclusion. Also, I might want to be involved in the collection of information and generation of options just because I want to be in the loop. Finally, an advice recipient might be driven by different needs or conditions than the advice giver; not expressing these might render any advice generated dead on arrival.

The advice giver is responsible for advice for being useful. This means that the complexity and magnitude of the advice, supporting materials, assumptions and the process of communication need to be worked out in advance. Different people like to get different types of information in different ways. When is a briefing better or worse than an email, phone call, or in-person conversation? Does the advice recipient want the whole senior leadership team to participate or want to hear the good or bad news alone?

Ultimately, the value of advice, conclusions and recommendations (beyond the quality of the information itself) depends on the quality of the communication process, which needs to be designed, planned and executed with discipline. Haphazard advice is worth only the amount of effort that went into its communication between giver and recipient. Poor communication can render even perfect advice useless.