My Pi-spective on Consulting

Consulting Advice Action

(A pi-spective is when you use 314 words to describe something)

Consulting confuses me. The word doesn't seem to match observed behaviour.

A consultant is a person who provides advice. A consultee is a person who is asked for advice. Consulting is the business of providing advice. To consult is to seek advice. The origin is 'to call together'.

Your advice is what you see, your view. So people who consult are seeking another person's view. But this says nothing about whether the person who consults is interested in a better view.

Perhaps more often than not they are interested in their view being confirmed. In which case the consultant/consultee is a confirmer. Some people, particularly those who read cognitive and behavioural science, value the opposite. They seek a disconfirmer.

This idea of consulting as 'calling together' is a hint to why I'm confused. Because it implies (to me) that several different people are involved. This is good, if the people are different, because it will help us escape framing effects.

This is not good if the people are the same or are all confirmers. If they are all confirmers then you don't need more than one. Unless you're trying to invoke social proof. Or ticking boxes.

It's the business of consulting that confuses me the most. What is the business of giving advice good for if it doesn't lead to action? If the advice leads to action, then the business of consulting is about action rather than advice. If the advice doesn't lead to action, then the business of consulting is about talking.

And we all do that.

People ask me if I'm a consultant. I say no. There then follows a confused conversation as people seek another label. This is another reason why the word consultant is confusing. It's diffuse. It ends up meaning much of nothing.

Good advice is specific, directed and actionable. We all consult, but few of us are consultees.

Photo by Paul Itkin via Unsplash