We will often find ourselves making decisions and plans based on past experiences. Whether or not our predicted outcomes are logical or reasonable, we hold on to them because we have built ourselves a system of beliefs that we are convinced are true, and can only lead to one possible result.
In some cases, these experiences and expectations can serve us well – being able to recognize and interpret patterns in data is a real skill, for example. However, sometimes these cognitive biases blind us to the truth, leaving us wrapped up in our own subjective reality.
In order to overcome these biases, we first need to recognize their existence. Here are three examples of cognitive bias that may be impeding your decision-making abilities, and steps you can take to overcome them.
When you’re surrounded by a group of people who hold a particular belief, it can be easy to get sucked into that doctrine without giving the issue much thought. While often mentioned in reference to fandoms of particular sports teams, the bandwagon effect can also run rampant in business settings. Have you ever been in a meeting where you didn’t completely agree with a decision being made, but mistrusted your own judgement simply because everyone else seemed to be on board with the idea? That’s the bandwagon effect at work. It can be tough to go against the grain and share your real opinion, but in doing so, you may just start the ball rolling so that others can share similar reservations and put forward new ideas.
Everyday we’re presented with so much information in our personal and professional lives that it is impossible to take it all in. To help simplify the process, our brains automatically pick out data and messages that correspond to and strengthen beliefs we already hold, while filtering out anything we don’t inherently agree with. This unconscious process, known as selective perception, happens to everyone, and takes some effort to overcome. If, for example, you find yourself reviewing research on the usefulness of social media marketing in your field, but you aren’t personally a big fan of it, it will be easy for you to skip over evidence in favor of the practice, while latching on to research that confirms social media is a waste of time and resources.
The good news, however, is that once you are aware of selective perception and how it can affect your decision making, you can take steps towards counteracting it. Instead of scanning research for data that stands out to you, make a conscious effort to read and understand each piece of evidence, making notes of the pros and cons presented by each. At the end, review your notes with an open mind and consider whether you’re making a decision based on the facts, or on your own opinions.
It’s 2019, and almost every facet of the business world – from intra-office communication to customer service – is being revolutionized. Every day we hear about a new piece of technology that completely reshapes the way we do things. It is easy to get excited about new innovations, and to be eager to become an early adopter of ground-breaking developments, but it’s important to keep a clear head when making these decisions. Pro-Innovation bias refers to the practice of overlooking an innovations’ limitations and continually pushing for its adoption.
In order to stay ahead of the curve, an office manager might champion a new office supply inventory system. She wants to move away from the spreadsheet that is currently in use, and embrace a flashy dashboard that offers automatic re-ordering, charts supply levels, and tracks how much paper each employee uses. What she overlooks, however, is the fact that this new system is expensive, and has a steep learning curve. The office is small, and the frequency that supplies are reordered is so low that an automated system is not necessary. In her eagerness to keep the office “on the cutting edge,” the manager is neglecting to consider the actual needs of the organization. Reverting back to the time-tested “Pros and Cons List” method of decision-making will prove to be useful here, as it lays out the facts in black and white (provided the list-maker is being completely honest in the information she includes).
These three examples of cognitive bias are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to blind spots that impede our decision-making capabilities, but being aware of them will help us to consider our actions more deeply. When it comes to finding success in business and in life, questioning ourselves and our motives is an important tool for helping us achieve our best. This also helps us to achieve true innovation and engagement in the workplace.
To learn more about blind spots that might be hindering your leadership abilities, download our free whitepaper and discover how to steer yourself towards becoming an exceptional leader.