Brain power

Is giving advice a good way to boost our own performance?

Originally posted on The Horizons Tracker.

I’m sure most of us think that the act of giving advice is a selfless and worthwhile one, with the recipient eternally grateful for our wisdom. Except it’s not always like that, as new research1 from the University of Pennsylvania highlights.

The study suggests that giving advice appears to help those doing the giving more than it does the recipients.

Volunteers were split into two groups, with the first allocated the role of advice giver and the other half recipients. The advice givers were conditioned to think they had important knowledge about how to motivate themselves, and were instructed to share that knowledge with others.

They not only answered questions from their peers, but also sent them a letter on the best way to work and avoid procrastination. The letters were designed to make the advice giver feel like a real expert in their field.

The results showed that the performance of those who had given the advice went up by a surprising amount, with this relatively simple intervention appearing to raise the productivity of both advice giver and advice recipient.

Lessons to teach

It should be said that the experiment was conducted in an academic environment, and the researchers accept that part of the gain could have been achieved because young people are traditionally not asked to give advice to others, so the novelty may have proven beneficial.

This is obviously not the case in a work environment where there is a much greater requirement for sharing knowledge and giving advice to our colleagues.

They also provided their advice at arms length, and the results may have differed if it was given in a face-to-face context. Nonetheless, the authors believe their findings reinforce the maxim that the best way for us to learn something is to teach it to someone else. It also underlines the motivational power of giving to others, and that helping others can be a benefit in its own right.

Article source: Is Giving Advice A Good Way To Boost Our Own Performance?

Header image source: Anastasia Gepp on Pixabay, Public Domain.


  1. Eskreis-Winkler, L., Milkman, K. L., Gromet, D. M., & Duckworth, A. L. (2019). A large-scale field experiment shows giving advice improves academic outcomes for the advisor. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(30), 14808-14810.
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Adi Gaskell

I'm an old school liberal with a love of self organizing systems. I hold a masters degree in IT, specializing in artificial intelligence and enjoy exploring the edge of organizational behavior. I specialize in finding the many great things that are happening in the world, and helping organizations apply these changes to their own environments. I also blog for some of the biggest sites in the industry, including Forbes, Social Business News, Social Media Today and, whilst also covering the latest trends in the social business world on my own website. I have also delivered talks on the subject for the likes of the NUJ, the Guardian, Stevenage Bioscience and CMI, whilst also appearing on shows such as BBC Radio 5 Live and Calgary Today.

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