Via Forbes : Leaders are in a position that requires immediate action. They have important choices to make, and it can be challenging to always determine the best outcome for any given situation.
Although your instincts are important, leaders also need to be aware of the many cognitive biases that exist and how to overcome them. As someone who comes from a sociology background, understanding the intersection between people and technology is a concept that has always been fascinating to me and our company, and it’s made us curious about the role emotions can play in decision making.
A cognitive bias is essentially the tendency to make decisions in an illogical way. This is a phenomenon that many psychologists have uncovered, as it is far too easy for our emotions and preferences to creep into our decision-making process. Pressure from key decision makers or the incorrect/selective use of data can sometimes cause leaders to make poor decisions that lead to undesirable results.
A good decision usually results from a combination of common sense, research, and good judgment. Making decisions based on incomplete information and unconfirmed hunches can lead to missed opportunities.
Overcoming Cognitive Biases
There are many different types of cognitive biases, and there is no way to describe how to overcome each of them here. When building a technology company like we are, several biases can affect your thought process. What should you prioritize? What features should you build? You may think you know what’s important or what’s right, but in reality, you need to look at everything holistically. Below are some of the more common types of biases, and how to avoid each.
- Anchoring: If you find that you are jumping to conclusions or making decisions based on first impressions, then you are anchoring. The information you gain early in your research process could be inaccurate, or may not provide a holistic view of the subject. Slow down, reflect, and ask more questions if you find that you have this habit. Every morning, our team likes to take some time to just simply think and reflect without any distractions. Setting aside that block of time can do wonders, and it allows us to take a step back and look at the big picture.
- Overconfidence Effect: This is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: It’s where you put too much confidence in your own opinions, experience or knowledge. You may even believe that your thoughts matter more than anyone else’s. Combined with other biases, this can lead to poor decision making. To avoid this bias, determine whether or not the information you have is reliable. Make sure that others are involved in the process, and that you employ a proper system for gathering your research.
- Confirmation Bias: This is when you go looking for information that supports your existing beliefs. As result, you might reject any data that isn’t in-line with what you believe, foregoing data that might show otherwise. If confirmation bias is affecting you, learn to challenge your thoughts, gather more information and data from a variety of sources, and see things from different perspectives. You may also find it beneficial to talk things over with others.
- Gambler’s Fallacy: This is the expectation that past events will influence how things pan out in the future. This can be a problematic bias no matter the situation, as it turns a game of odds into unreasonable assumptions and expectations. Most often, this bias occurs when a leader fails to look at the information in a chronological order. As with other biases, take a deeper look at the data and to try to see things from new angles.
It can be challenging for people to spot cognitive biases on their own, because they usually come from subconscious thinking. This is a good reason to avoid making decisions by yourself. If there are people on your team you know you can trust and count on to tell you the truth, run your thoughts and hunches by them to gain a broader perspective. After all, good leaders can make bad decisions. No matter how confident you feel in your own abilities, it’s best to work with others to arrive at logical conclusions backed by facts.
Jason Shah is the founder and CEO of Do, a collaboration platform that helps you run productive meetings.