Author: Shankar Meembat | The Alternative Board (Milton Keynes)
Do you find yourself making decisions in the workplace based on a particular bias you have about something or someone? I’d like to start off by asking you a question….
Mark is a 30 year old person living in Germany. He wears horn rimmed glasses, and loves Mozart. What is Mark more likely to be? Is he likely to be a professor of literature in Frankfurt, or is he a truck driver?
To those of you who have now decided Mark is likely to be a professor in literature – You’re in good company. That is what most people are likely to say, but unfortunately you are being driven by what is known as a base rate neglect. You have ignored the probabilities.
The question was: ‘What is Mark likely to be?’
The very fact that there are more truck drivers in Germany, than professors of literature in Frankfurt, means that Mark is more likely to be a truck driver. It’s a personal bias that a lot of people are affected by, including me.
Overconfidence in the Workplace
Other common biases include overconfidence. You’ve been successful in your career, in your growth, and obviously there is a reason for that. Hence, your trust yourself more than you trust other people. The more of an expert you are in a subject, the more likely you are to be subject to an overconfidence bias.
Confirmation bias in the Workplace
Another common bias is one of Confirmation Bias. You have a hypothesis and you tend to look for information that confirms your hypothesis rather than one that would challenge it.
There are many other biases that I could keep talking about, and I’m sure you know many of them. So, I would recommend you read Rolf Dobeli’s ‘The Art of Thinking Clearly’ to understand more about cognitive bias and how it might affect you in the workplace.
So, Why Are Biases Important?
Biases are important because when you are making a decision as business leader and you are biased, this can lead to a significantly wrong decision.
So what can you do about it?
Let me give you my own four ‘Ps’ for overcoming biases.
- Have a good perception about yourself. Be aware that biases are natural.
- Be provocative. Challenge yourself. As you go through things, challenge the basis, challenge the data that that you see. Challenge the information. Try to look at it from different angles.
- Be proactive. Don’t wait for information to come to you, go out and seek the information about biases. This means you will be more aware of them and recognise them when you’re making important decisions.
- Get a Peer Group. Surround yourself with people who have had both similar and different experiences. They might give you a different perspective to things and help you solve the issue of bias. Find out more about peer advisory boards.