Giving unactionable advice

One of the common dings against our books REWORK and It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work (less so with REMOTE), is that we don’t include a lot of actionable advice. It’s a fair swipe.

It seems everyone’s after actionable advice. The advice that tells you exactly what to do. Read this, do exactly that, and here’s the outcome you can expect.

Yeah, no.

Most actionable advice isn’t advice at all, it’s opinion. Sure, you can give someone advice by giving them your opinion, but when you stitch actionable to the front of advice, it masquerades as fact. But it ain’t.

Why don’t we give actionable advice in REWORK and It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work? Because we don’t know how you should act. The action required in any specific situation is highly contextual. If we guessed we’d probably be wrong most of the time.

We can’t tell you what to do. We don’t know what you should do. We barely know what we should do! And most of the time we don’t.

What we can tell you, however, is what we’ve done. In our own unique situation, our own context. From there you can form your own opinion about how it applies to your situation. It’s an input, not the input. Maybe it’s a perfect fit, maybe it’s a partial fit. Maybe it’s not a fit at all. The important part of the equation is you bringing your own mind – and your own situation – to bear. Apply that heavily, not actionable advice lightly.

Seek out unactionable advice. You’ll figure more out.

10 thoughts on “Giving unactionable advice

    1. Unactionable advice is a great token for repping this idea.

      When there is absence of sufficient context:

      Stories > Principles > Recommended Considerations > Recommended Actions

      When there is sufficient context, though, I think you can make the fault of avoiding actionable advice.

  1. That seems like an odd criticism of a book like REWORK as the principles and ideas in there inspired me to think how I could apply them to my job and my entrepreneurial ventures. I never looked at it as a step-by-step guide. It’s a great book in that it presents a bunch of interesting ideas in an easy-to-digest and entertaining fashion, and then fosters hours of brainstorming about how you might incorporate and improve your own projects.

  2. Unactionable advice is a great token for repping this idea.

    When there is absence of sufficient context:

    Stories > Principles > Recommended Considerations > Recommended Actions

    When there is sufficient context, though, I think you can make the fault of avoiding actionable advice

  3. I think that is today’s society in general. I don’t want to be told how to think or what to do. I want to be made to think and get help with considering all the alternatives and then I’ll find the solution myself. Then it is on me. I’m responsible for the outcome.

  4. Rework is our Company Manual, just because it doesn’t have actionable advice. For same problem, your advice in California will be very different in Europe. Too many factors are in consideration before you give an advice. Thats why they doesn’t work. Thats why I don’t read those type of books. If it worked for you, it could harm me.

  5. I love this post! In today’s world almost everyone is slapping a tag line on something and calling it advice but you have to make it your own. And you have to work at it. That’s why I wrote “Inspiring Bold” to share how I changed as a leader. Hopefully some of the stories resonate and people can change on their own journey.

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