Family businesses, with their unique blend of personal and professional dynamics, often navigate a complex landscape of decision-making and advisory needs. The paper “Unpacking the Black Box of Family Business Advising: Insights From Psychology,” published in the Family Business Review in October 2017 by Vanessa M. Strike, Nadine Kammerlander, and others, delves into this intricate world. It offers a comprehensive view of how psychological insights can enhance the understanding and effectiveness of family business advising.

Key Insights from the Paper

The paper presents a detailed analysis of family business advising, drawing from both psychology and family business literature. It employs an Input-Process-Output (IPO) framework to structure its findings, providing a clear and systematic approach to understanding the advisory process in family businesses.

  1. Advice Giving and Taking: The paper explores various aspects of advice-giving and taking, including the content and quality of advice, the confidence of advisors, and the dynamics of solicited versus unsolicited advice. It highlights the importance of understanding the psychological underpinnings of these interactions to improve the effectiveness of advice.
  2. Decision Attributes: The research delves into the seriousness of problems, task difficulty, and complexity, emphasizing the role of expert advice in navigating these challenges. It underscores the need for advisors to be attuned to the specific needs of family businesses.
  3. Relational Attributes: A significant focus of the paper is on the relationship between the advisor and the decision-maker. It examines factors like similarity and trust, which are crucial in the context of family businesses where personal and professional boundaries often overlap.
  4. Psychological Perspectives: The paper brings in unique insights from psychology, such as the impact of advice on the decision-maker’s confidence and the role of emotions in the decision-making process. These insights are particularly relevant in family businesses, where decisions often have a personal and emotional component.
  5. Global Context: The research also touches upon the geographical and cultural dimensions of family business advising, noting that most studies are focused on the United States, with significant parts of the world understudied. This highlights the need for a more global perspective in understanding family business dynamics.


Unpacking the Black Box of Family Business Advising: Insights From Psychology” provides a rich and nuanced understanding of the advisory process in family businesses. By integrating psychological insights with family business literature, the paper offers valuable guidelines for advisors and family businesses alike. It underscores the importance of a tailored approach that considers the unique emotional, relational, and contextual factors inherent in family businesses.