Economic Advice and Rhetoric

Economic Advice and Rhetoric

Why do Consultants Perform Better than Academic Advisers?

Onno Bouwmeester

This book compares the approaches of consultants and academic advisers and provides an in-depth analysis of their advice argumentation. Both compete on the market for economic advice, with consultants enjoying a larger market share and usually obtaining higher fees. However, academics criticize them for overcharging, shallowness, and quick-and-dirty methods. So, are consultants’ clients misled or even cheated? Not necessarily. The book reveals that academics have drawbacks as well; their arguments are less balanced than those of consultants and their estimates contradict each other more.

Chapter 2: Consultants’ and Academics’ Views on Advice

Onno Bouwmeester

Subjects: business and management, management education, organisation studies, strategic management, education, management education, politics and public policy, public policy

Extract

Consultants and academic advisers compete on the Dutch market for economic advice. Academics wonder why consultants enjoy success despite what they consider weak methodology, empty rhetoric and superficial analyses. Academic economists are paid less and have a smaller market share. Riddle-solving suggestions vary from the ironic – attributing supernatural powers to consultants by characterizing them as witch doctors (Clark and Salaman, 1996) – to the disrespectful – calling consultants “charlatans” (van Aken, 2001; Armbrüster, 2006, p. 2; Bloomfield and Danieli, 1995, p. 39). Consultants have distinguished different advice roles to serve their clients. Some suit academics: the expert role or the mental adventurer. Others, such as the process role, the docter role or the advocate, better fit consultants. If consultants consider someone a mental adventurer, their interest in research is great, but the relevance of that research is questionable, especially from the perspective of the client. Therefore analysts and researchers are ranked relatively low in the consultant hierarchy, which is expressed in their fee. Academic economists have also established a hierarchy in which pure academic research is ranked higher than academic advice or applied research (Frey and Eichenberger, 1993; Klamer, 2007, p. 42). A sign of this phenomenon is that theoretical academics do not cite academic advisers but academic advisers freely cite theoretical academics. Academic indicators of quality are citations by others and publications in peer-reviewed A-level journals. Theoretical academics thus work for an academic audience and strive to meet academic standards. These pure academics are successful at pure academic work, because...

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