Why a Second Opinion?

The most important business decisions deserve a second opinion

Do you know what people want from me? A second opinion – about their marketing and business development strategy, for the most part. Sometimes they want me to execute it, too, or at least oversee its execution. But behind that is the desire for not just a new perspective but for a different, recommended course of action.

I hear something like this almost weekly: “something something something, I know about this and that, I’ve tried it before, but I’m not sure, and…. and so I guess what I really need is a second opinion.”

Many of you have probably experienced something similar. The person you’re talking to has done due diligence, read your industry’s exalted books, and made a sophisticated business strategy. With much input from many smart thinkers.

But still, you know more they do. You have done it more. Plus, you know the specifics about their business. The authors of the books they have read have no clue about those specifics.

Therefore, they want a second opinion – from you.

I got me thinking over this week, what is a second opinion?

But before I researched the term, memory struck. That one time, years ago, on a bitterly cold Spanish winter. My pain level was 13 on a scale of 1-10. My whole face was swollen and bursting, my eyes were red with tears of pain. Sleep? No way, not while an abscess pounded somewhere underneath the skin against my jawbone, nerves, and gums.

So I schlepped myself to an emergency room. The good news is that at 4 am, the small clinic was empty and I soon saw the doctor. The bad news is that his approach was to jab/saw at my jaw with a knife, trying to dig under the skin to release the abscess. It was pure agony and accomplished nothing. I questioned his approach and suggested an alternative. I think that made him jab harder. I protested.

“I am the doctor”, he pointed out.

What did I want more than anything – at that moment of pain and confusion, at the mercy of an idiotic sadist with a medical degree?

A second opinion.

*   *   *

My “research” began with the usual trio: Google, Wikipedia, and the Oxford English Dictionary. The OED has a few different meanings for the word opinion, including the one that’s part of the term, ‘second opinion’.

“A formal statement by a judge or other competent authority of what he or she judges or advises on a matter. In a second opinion: the opinion of a second (esp. medical) expert or adviser.”

So we’re not talking about a blurted thought or an expression of subjective taste.

We’re talking about a formal recommendation for a specific course of action.

This is relevant to your work. You are a competent authority. You advise on matters related to areas of your expertise. And if you put them into a formal statement (eg. an audit) then, voila, you deliver an opinion.

According to the OED, second opinion has been used in both a medical and non-medical context for centuries. But the first known usage was about doctors.

Therto thei [sc. doctors] acorden alle As for final conclusioun, And tolden here opinioun To themperour.
John Gower, Confession Amantis, 1393

The modern English translation: “therefore they [sc. the doctors] agreed on ale, as a final conclusion. And delivered their opinion to the pourer”. If only my doctor had been half as competent.

When I finally exited that lunatic’s surgery and arrived at the lobby of the clinic, I did something I am still proud of: I refused to pay until I was given a second opinion. And there, prominently posted on the wall of the lobby, was my justification for doing so. The Spanish constitution guarantees medical patients the right to a second opinion. (Sidebar: the newer the constitution, the better).

It is a stretch to conclude that business owners have the legal right to a second opinion when it comes to something like a growth marketing strategy. But it’s a good idea for them. And it could be a valuable framework for your business.

Also, I hope I’ve now answered the question posed in the title of this article. I’ve rebranded this newsletter from The Art of Ideation to something more central to my business: Second Opinion.

My best,

PS. I’ll soon be sharing some exciting (for me) news about Second Opinion – no coffee mug or t-shirt but something hopefully more interesting to you