How Big Is Your Advice Rolodex? Technology Can Help.

rolodex.jpgAt the height of the O.J. Simpson trial murder of his wife, there was a lot of talk about Mr. Simpson’s lawyer, the late Johnnie Cochran. One aspect of the “talk” I remember was that he had a powerful Rolodex and knew just about everyone who mattered in the world of criminal defense.

What about you? Do you know where to access the myriad amount of information you need to grow your own business? What is the future of advice in this day and age of technology advancement?
To answer that question, The Conference Board Review’s March/April 2008 cover story, “The Future of Advice,” offers some valuable…advice.
Their press release reads: Technology may continue to speed a worldwide information revolution, but author Michael Schrage points out that “while good advice is surely good information, good information is not necessarily good advice.” Indeed, using technology to manage information demands different sensibilities than using it to handle advice. For example, the permanence of e-mail provides us with unique opportunities to brand ourselves as adviser and advisee.

There’s also no stopping the “networkification” of advice, which has prompted new genres of digital counsel. As the variety of blogs expands, so too the number of wikis, shared online spaces that can be either communally or individually edited and updated. Together, they move advice beyond its mere giving and taking—it becomes interactive.
Interactive advice is especially useful to those who need efficient recommendations now. For instance, at several Bangalore call centers, customer-service reps often instant-message each other while chatting with their help-line callers. As more companies adopt such practices, Schrage offers his thoughts on firms that don’t. He ponders: “Perhaps some firms simply aren’t getting good advice about good advice.”
Businesses adopting new innovations in advice technology are discovering that their efforts are paying off. Amazon, Netflix, Apple’s iTunes, and many other companies offer superb technology-enabled recommendations. “Better yet,” says Schrage, “all that good advice comes free—giving lie to the consultant’s clich√© that free advice is worth only what you pay for it. In truth, that ‘free’ advice has qualitatively and quantitatively changed digital commerce worldwide.”
Advice, however, is not the same as expertise. Whereas the latter focuses on being right, advice revolves around issues of good judgment. When it comes to advice, “there is no inherently right answer, but there are almost always questions and approaches that might facilitate desirable outcomes,” explains Schrage. “As a result, experts and advisers have different goals and different roles.”
To better manage advice, Schrage predicts that tomorrow’s organizations may have a CAO—a Chief Advice Officer—to oversee the tools, technologies, and training essential to transforming good advice into great organizations. Yet one thing will remain clear: “The future of good advice will transform the future of good management.”