How to Evaluate Advice

How to Evaluate Advice

Fifteen years ago I started a digital network, we were going to be the event industry’s Facebook. Except I hadn't heard of Facebook then. No one had. We just wanted to be the next Internet millionaires but that wasn't how it worked out.

I found a whole range of professional connections who were very generous with their time and advice in return for a beer and a sandwich. My partner Ian and I made copious notes and sat up late at night drawing up our plans.

The thing we found difficult was that whilst all these wise people told us important things, quite a lot of their advice was contradictory. In the end we resolved it by ranking the information by speciality. So a lawyer’s advice on marketing – for example – was not as important as the lawyer’s advice on … well …. law.

A few years later I was working with another client and overheard a presentation which put this into context. There is a system used by London’s Metropolitan Police (and probably by other police forces) called “Five by Five” and it totally altered how I looked at the world from that point forward.

In a nutshell it works like this: Each bit of information is evaluated on two separate scales from one to five.
First, an evaluation of the honesty of the messenger. An honest person would score five, and a known fantasist would rate a zero. Even an honest person who likes to dramatise stories would still score a zero. (No one like that in the events business is there?)

Second, is an evaluation of the knowledge that person might have about the topic. So the lawyer scores five when talking about the law, but a zero for his knowledge of anything else. .

This simple technique altered how I viewed the world from the moment I heard it.

Which brings me on to: Why do we all listen to many interesting presentations every day of our working lives, and yet so few of them stick? I can’t answer that one but at least you know how to evaluate my opinion.


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