Asking For Help
There was a study by Viswanath Venkatesh and Michael G. Morris “Why Don’t Men Ever Stop to Ask for Directions? Gender, Social Influence, and Their Role in Technology Acceptance and Usage Behavior” that looked at 342 workers over five months to observer usage and adoption of technology. The researchers’ results were that men considered perceived usefulness to a greater extent than women in making decisions about the use of new technology. On the other hand, perceived ease of use was more important to women compared to men even after initial training. What’s perhaps even more interesting was that men’s view of ease of use was that it went up after using the system while women’s view remained unchanged. Additionally subject norms were considered much more by women than men. What this suggests is that women are much more balanced in their technology decisions with regards to perceived usefulness, ease of use, and subject norms.
Another study by Fiona Lee “When the Going Gets Tough, Do the Tough Ask for Help? Help Seeking and Power Motivation in Organizations” revealed that individuals do not seek help, even when it is needed and available, because doing so implies incompetence, dependence, and powerlessness. There is even a whimsical study from insurer Sheilas’ Wheels that claims that the average male drives around lost 276 miles each year costing over $3,000 in fuel.
Our experience with hundreds of clients has been that technologist in general hate to ask for help but would much rather struggle in an attempt to solve the problem themselves. Unfortunately they do so even at the risk of being very inefficient and wasting organizational resources. Whether the reason is genetic or fear of being seen as incompetent the problem is costly to organizations.
Asking for help or advice from someone who has been down the road you’re traveling in my opinion is not only the fastest way to get there but also shows great courage and confidence. You have to be completely comfortable with what you know in order to admit in front of peers or bosses what you don’t know. Some of this confidence comes from experience but some of it also comes from the culture of the organization. If you’ve built or inherited an organizational culture where everyone pretends to know everything and is afraid to ask for help, you’re guaranteed to be very inefficient. If you find yourself faced with this situation be the leader and step forward to show people how to ask for help. Start by calling this issue out at your next all hands meeting or staff meeting. Then show people it’s more important to be unbelievably curious and passionate about your craft than to appear like you know everything.