Cognitive Biases And How To Avoid Them In Business

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In Rolf Dobelli’s book titled The Art Of Thinking Clearly, a cognitive bias is described as a simple error we all make in our day-to-day thinking. It happens when choosing which drink to buy, when to go to bed, what to say to your spouse, and in this case, when making a business decision.

By knowing what they are and how to detect a cognitive bias in your decision-making process, you can avoid them and subsequently make better choices, preventing pitfalls and regret in the future.  

Our brains have evolved to use these mental shortcuts, also known as heuristics, to make faster decisions in more simpler times of human life. These days, we are bombarded with too much information and choices for our brains to handle, resulting in decisions being more difficult to make than ever.

If you’re interested in reading more on this topic, be sure to head over to Examined Existence.

Authority Bias

This happens in any corporate environment where top positions are more authoritative. The result is lower level employees heeding the advice and ideas of higher-ups and ignoring those of their fellow coworkers. This can be harmful when authority figures’ ideas are taken on board before the other members have a chance to put their ideas forward, even when the latter group’s ideas are superior. Avoid it by having an open mind and considering everyone else’s point of view, regardless of their place in the hierarchy.

Conformity Bias

Perhaps the most common of all cognitive biases, conformity bias is the result of people’s natural desire to fit in and follow the majority. This is particularly harmful during the creative thinking process as the group’s ideas are taken before your own. The result is a loss of independent thought and self-censorship.

Combat this by following through with your own ideas or that of other individuals. Compare them objectively against that of the majority instead of immediately dismissing them in the pursuit of fitting in.

Confirmation Bias

Particularly ignorant individuals often fall for this bias. Instead of having an open mind and considering opposing facts or opinions, they choose to only believe and pursue opinions that fall in line with theirs, even if the opposition has a more compelling case.

Once again, it’s easy to combat this: Simply hear the other side of the story, even if you don’t like it. It may just change your mind. In the same light, expose team members to facts that challenge their own point of view to combat their confirmation bias.

Self-Serving Bias

Just like conformity bias, self-serving bias is fairly common. But instead of being as passive as possible and conforming to everyone else’s views, you stick to your guns to satisfy your ego or self-esteem. This results in decisions that are only made to serve yourself as opposed to benefitting the group. To combat this, consider alternative routes that benefit everyone equally.

Conclusion

Chances are you can relate to a lot of these cognitive biases. That’s fine; it means you’re human and no person will ever be able to completely combat these errors in thinking. Simply keep them in mind as often as possible – your wallet will thank you for it.

1 COMMENT

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