David A. Garvin and Joshua D. Margolis on Misjudging the Quality of Advice

Most seekers who accept advice have trouble distinguishing the good from the bad. Research shows that they value advice more if it comes from a confident source, even though confidence doesn’t signal validity. Conversely, seekers tend to assume that advice is off-base when it veers from the norm or comes from people with whom they’ve had frequent discord. (Experimental studies show that neither indicates poor quality.) Seekers also don’t embrace advice when advisers disagree among themselves. And they fail to compensate sufficiently for distorted advice that stems from conflicts of interest, even when their advisers have acknowledged the conflicts and the potential for self-serving motives.

– David A. Garvin and Joshua D. Margolis, subsection on “Misjudging the quality of advice” in “The Art of Giving and Receiving Advice,” Harvard Business Review, January-February 2015, p. 64