Benjamin Franklin and me

My first job was one of "consultant". In those times, consulting meant reformulating a problem the client knew he had, and listing fairly obvious solutions to throw at it (with more consulting hours).

The client would then either

  • entirely ignore our advice and pretend the problem never existed
  • pick up the cheapest solution and cut the recommended budget by half
  • come up with a grand, very expensive plan to address not just this specific problem, but any one of its kind, for now and the rest of eternity

Consulting firms are said to hope and push for solution #3, but that's only partially true. As human beings, we like to help, solve problems and build things that last.

Yet it's true that if we can't implement a good solution, we'd rather bill a lot of hours for a bad solution than not participate in it at all. (Consultants are very good at claiming success as theirs while blaming others for disasters.)

After a few years of this, I chose a different line of work and went on to build custom systems and solutions (i.e., without the consulting part whenever possible): I had come to the conclusion that smart companies are able to guide themselves, while not so smart ones don't benefit from external suggestions very much, or listen to the wrong ones.

I was pleased with this diagnostic... and then I came upon this phrase: "Wise men don't need advice. Fools won't take it."

It's usually attributed to Benjamin Franklin, although it may have come from an earlier English proverb. I find it quite true; I kind of wish it hadn't taken me so long to rediscover it.

Mon, 25 Mar 2013 • permalink