Expert vs advisors

I’ve been reading the ‘Strategy and the Fat Smoker’ by David Maister. I think very highly of David’s crisp thinking in the manner he approach strategy and the manner in which he cuts through issues and topics. He simplifies the concepts to the core of the subject matter without ignoring the human elements in them.

One of the interesting ideas he introduced is the idea of expert vs advisors when it comes to serving in professional services. A lot of consultants claim to desire to serve customers as advisors, as trusted partners but in reality they want to be treated as the expert, to have control and defend their expertise rather than to build strong trusting relationships with their clients.

In essence, from my perspective, the expert cares about the topic and the subject matter more than the client’s problem. And as a result, the client can benefit from the expertise but more as flat information or knowledge than actionable insights.

The advisor may not be the expert but he gains his authority to consult with the client through his deep understanding of the client’s problem. And that allows his synthesis of insights gathered from other parties, especially those who consider themselves experts.

A client can decide what he needs is an expert but he can never expect the bespoke synthesis to come from the expert. He or she will have to take responsibility for that.