We can make every effort to be objective, rational, and open-minded when making decisions or contemplating new ideas, but there are several roadblocks that may get in the way.
The first one is cognitive bias. We simply can’t escape its effects. I’ll give you an example.
You’re presented with a new business opportunity. Naturally, you’ll look at the forecasts, the spreadsheets and the potential ROI. But you’ll also likely approach it with some gut instincts based on your previous successes or failures. You’ll use what you know to be true in the past to extrapolate a theory about the current opportunity.
Despite the facts, your decision will still be filtered through the background context of your knowledge, experiences, emotions, and perspectives. For better or worse. It’s not possible to “unring the bell” and forget all of that.
The key point here is to understand that the decision process never starts from a completely neutral place, which can lead to short-sided decision-making.
The second roadblock is confirmation bias.
You have likely developed a preference for how to solve problems and approach new opportunities. Along the way, you have searched for evidence to confirm your theories. Which means you may place greater value on sources that support your position. You gravitate toward facts that reinforce and confirm your thinking. Then you rest easy knowing you were correct. Except sometimes you’re not.
Confirmation bias can prevent us from making an objective analysis.
So, what does this mean for those of us who are facing intense pressure to make better decisions and accomplish more in less time? We can essentially become stuck in a prison of our own perspectives. If we want to escape these limitations, we need to make some decisive and even counterintuitive moves.
Here’s a couple of those moves:
Purposefully work to disrupt your own thinking.
That’s bold and maybe even a little awkward, but it works. If you want to know whether an idea is good, invite qualified people to poke holes in it. Welcome the disagreement. Actively look for other perspectives that can balance out your own cognitive bias and you’ll improve your capacity to make better and more balanced decisions.
Practice strategic collaboration.
Stop looking for people who will fit in and blend with you or your team’s profile. That’s a sure way to end up with like-minded individuals who easily agree on processes and approaches. Shake it up!
When you take part in projects or form committees, be strategic about the people you choose to participate. Make sure those represented bring diversity of thought to your idea generating and decision-making process. Maybe even bring in outsiders from other teams, other companies or other industries to share divergent perspectives and spark new lines of thought.
Today we need every possible advantage to succeed in the new era of business. Instead of being limited by your own perspectives, team up with people who see the world differently than you do.