I use three questions to triage advice. I apply them to unrequited advice as much as the counsel I seek from friends, colleagues and mentors. The objective is to screen out the noise and over time this framework has become less process and more instinct.
And while I’m a lot quicker to call B/S on poor advice and more effective at putting the high-quality advice to work, I keep an open mind to advice wild cards. These are the one in ten comments or insights that might be worth listening to. I keep an open mind because history has taught me that relying on absolute beliefs can be dangerous.
1. Have they been in the trenches?
I have a strong bias for listening to operators, those people who have built businesses, been beaten up (figuratively) and have had the grit to keep going.
Nine times out of ten these people bring rich, empathic and action-oriented insight to the table.
People who offer advice without ever having tried to build a business won’t often get past this step. If these same people come with the label of ‘business’ or ‘innovation’ coach, it’s an immediate game over.
2. Why are they offering the advice?
Magic happens when incentives are aligned. People who pass the first test will often offer genuine insight and help because they can empathise with your situation. And more often than not, they would prefer to spare someone the pain they went through.
These people may also consider the act of offering advice as a relationship development opportunity. That’s a good thing because they may come back to you for help at some point in the future.
Consider the alternative. If someone’s incentive to engage is to make money (directly or indirectly), the advice is likely to be less useful.
3. Will it increase my rate of learning?
This is the most important question of this framework.
Think about the last piece of advice you received. If you followed through with it, would it help you learn more about your customers, your users, your team and culture, your market opportunity, your profitability or your sales processes?
And if the answer is YES, how quickly could you quickly make a course correction to realise the value of what you learned?
If the answer is ‘a matter of days’ given your competing priorities, then the advice is probably worth accepting.