What to Do When Given Advice

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Like most of us, you probably tend to overvalue advice if you're unsure about a problem. Yet, when you think you're sure about a problem, you tend to discount other people's advice.

Here's the problem with that.

If you're stuck in a complex situation, you'll probably ask Fred for his opinions. Now, if he's right, you're in the money. Yet, when he's wrong, you could suffer severe consequences depending on the situation. For these complex situations, it's better to stay cautious of advice given; they could just be BSing you. Now, let's look at the other side. Now you're in a sitation that presents itself as something simple you could handle. Like most of us, you'd probably listen to any advice given, but you won't take it to heart. In these sitations, be aware that the other person might just know something you do not know.

It's in the research.

Harvard Business Professor Francesca Gino studied our biases on receiving advice: "In our experiments, subjects were asked to guess the weight of people in various pictures, some of which were in focus (making guessing easier) and some of which were blurred (complicating the guesswork). For each picture, subjects guessed twice: the first time without advice and the second time with input from another, randomly chosen participant. "When the pictures were in focus, we found, subjects tended to discount the advice; apparently, they were confident in their ability to guess correctly. When the pictures were blurry, subjects leaned heavily on the advice of others and seemed less sure about their initial opinion. "Because they misjudged the value of the advice they received -- consistently overvaluing or undervaluing it depending on the difficulty of the problem -- our subjects made suboptimal guesses overall. They would have done better if they'd considered the advice equally, and to a moderate degree, on both hard and easy tasks."

Take all advice equally

Francesca Gino sums it up simply: "When you think the solution to a problem is simple, and you find yourself waving off advice givers, think again. You may know a lot about the problem, but that doesn't mean you won't benefit from the opinions of others who know a lot, too."

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Posted on March 01

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