203 Seek Advice!

Based on research by Brooks, A. W., Gino, F., & Schweitzer, M. E. (2015) written by Mara Rowcliffe, MS.

Everyone can benefit from exchanging information and ideas, but many people are hesitant to seek advice, as they fear being seen as incompetent or stupid.

A psychological study led by Harvard Business School researcher Dr. Alison Brooks indicates this fear is not justified. They randomly assigned 170 participants to either an advice-request or no advice-request group. They informed participants their purpose was studying instant messaging on performance with an anonymous partner in the room. They instructed participants to complete a brainteaser, and their partner would complete the same problem later in the study. In reality, the partner was computer-simulated so the researchers could study the impact of seeking advice. Upon completing the problem, participants received one of two messages. In the advice-request group, their “partner” said, “I hope it went well. Do you have any advice?” However, the no advice-request group only received the message, “I hope it went well.” Participants evaluated their partner. The results showed the individuals in the advice-request group rated their partner higher on competence and reported they would be more likely to ask their partner for advice on a similar task.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Competent people seek advice!


Brooks, A. W., Gino, F., & Schweitzer, M. E. (2015). Smart people ask for (my) advice: Seeking advice boosts perceptions of competence. Management Science, 61(6), 1421-1435.

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