The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

Seeking advice

“When we seek advice, we rarely want to be told which option to choose. We’re usually seeking guidance on how to approach the decision.

The best advice doesn’t specify what to do. It highlights blind spots in our thinking and helps us clarify our priorities.” – Adam Grant

A client was so kind to share that quote with me.

To me, it seemed easy to do as described, especially when the advice relates to a tangible decision. That is when people are trying to find their way by investigating all the alternatives. In such a context, helping to organize priorities, sounds like a good way to explore how to approach a decision.

However, reading the comments, I was reminded that things become slightly more complicated when the advice sought isn’t about what to choose, but about how to do something.

In such a case priorities will revolve around methods.

However to be able to prioritize methods one needs to understand their underlying principles, what they are for, and what knowledge they require.

This makes it difficult for the person seeking advice to ask the right question or to describe what it is that isn’t working out right. They’ll easily assume that it is them who haven’t understood the explanations well enough and need to work harder to understand them.

What they’ll rarely think about or imagine is, that the method suggested doesn’t fit the way they can address a problem, or how they understand the context of the problem. That is, that the method suggested doesn’t fit how they think nor the data they have available.

Instead of finding a solution that works for them, they’ll find themselves getting lost in trying to make it work as being told. Sometimes the blind spot is to accept that people may have completely different ways to think. Or to see that a way of thinking may not be compatible with the used method. It’s not always about thinking harder. It can just as well be about choosing the way to think.



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