Seth Godin

The Thing About Advice: Who Do You Trust?

Last week, when I read Seth Godin's blog post, "Most Advice is Bad Advice..." it got me thinking about advice in general.

I'll cut to the chase and say that I don't agree with him. At least not completely.

The problem is knowing whose advice is safe to take and who's isn't - which makes it all about trust.

And don't think that this is a "challenge." It's a problem - at least for you - because if you trust the wrong person, take their advice and it goes wrong, it's you who takes the hit. Not them.

You decided. You take the consequences.

So let's go back to that trust issue and figure out how to reduce the risk when you're making the decision of whom to trust - or whether to take any advice at all (which is also a perfectly acceptable decision).

Trust, as I've written in many previous posts and articles, is behavioral. But, in the case of advice-giving, underneath the behavior is the intent of the advisor - and that's where your smarts and instincts have to come in. Ask yourself:
  • Why did you choose that person to ask?
  • What have they done that led you to think that they know or will have good input about what you need to know?
  • Do they have a reputation of being trustworthy?
  • Are they a role model in the realm about which you're asking?
  • How well do you know them?
  • How well do they know you?
  • What are their goals?
  • How are they rewarded - particularly if they're part of your business life?
  • What's in it for them to give you the advice?
  • Will you make them look good...or better?
The more you understand your chosen advisor's underlying intent, the more you can protect yourself from taking advice that is well-meaning for them but not, necessarily, for you.

Something to think about. Especially before you ask...or you advise.
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Seth Godin, Lean and the Two Percent Rule

In Seth Godin's blog (which I greatly enjoy and highly suggest you receive) he talks about the two percent of your customers who are going to be dissatisfied with what you do.

It won't matter what it is.  There will be a group - his estimated two percent - of unhappy campers.

The problem is, they are usually also very vocal campers.

People who are happy with what you're doing demonstrate it by coming back for more.  They like what you have to offer and how you offer it.  They don't make a big deal of it because there's nothing to make a big deal of.  They show their appreciation by their return to your site, doors, or where you show up on their shelves.

Godin raises the question of whether you should stymie the innovation in your organization because of a small bunch of loud-voiced complainers.

The answer, of course, is no.  His and mine.

But, allow me to add a couple of additional thoughts to his thinking.

First, no matter how loud those voices are, you can - and must - promote the perspective of the other 98% who are satisfied customers.  That comes from your social media strategy.

Whether it's a "Like" or increasing your number of fans or a star-rating system, you positively build your reputation by engaging the people who can easily speak for why they think what you have to offer is great in a way that they enjoy and, potentially, promotes them too.

That makes a viral positive response to any negativity far more likely.

The other thing to keep in mind is that, based on the statistical logic of Lean, 97% of what happens is predictable.  You may not like it, but you can predict that it will occur.

Godin's two percent, therefore, falls into the 97% predictable category.  You know it's going to happen - so you can prepare for it.

To keep those creative juices flowing in your organization, prepare for the complaints by ensuring that your innovators know that it won't stop them - or the company - from continuing to support a robust innovation strategy.

And, since you know it's coming, when you're doing your product analysis before launch, spend some time figuring out what the nay-sayers are going to come up with this time.

Who knows?

Maybe their complaints will lead to a next generation of innovation and improvement from which you can profit even further.

But be prepared.  Because that two percent will still find something to complain about.