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A post by Ross got me thinking about why the recommendations you see on Dell.com and Amazon.com work… it’s because they are a conversation… He points to an article by Michael Schrage exploring how information informs, in the form of advice, and how it relates to technology:

While technology’s future may not be the future of advice,” says Schrage, “the future of advice can no longer be meaningfully divorced from the media and mechanisms that carry it. There’s never been a time in history when ‘advice’ and ‘device’ have been so intimate, interdependent, and intertwined. Executive advice in the global enterprise is overwhelmingly mediated, automated, or augmented by some sort of technology.” From Blackberrys to iPhones, there’s no shortage of devices to enable streams of advice.

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.”

He makes the important distinction between advice and expertise:

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.”

The nice thing about advice in this context, is that because it is a conversation, authority matters less.  With information, authority is the gatekeeper.

(btw… this post is also interesting with a story from baseline)

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