Our brains try to make life easily digestible for us. If we were to process all the information that comes at us without our brain cutting any corners, we’d all go crazy and get nothing done; the simplest of tasks would take all day. But in the process of helping us, our brain can certainly trip us up, especially when it comes to decision making.
Confirmation bias makes us put lots of weight into information that confirms what we already believe, while basically disregarding information that doesn’t align with how we see the world. Have you ever wondered why, in the face of seemingly overwhelming research, statistics, scientific evidence and reason, it is so hard to convince an anti-vaxxer that they should consider vaccinating their children? Confirmation bias is what makes it so difficult.
From their perspective, any information that doesn’t align with their point of view will be completely disregarded. And it’s certainly not just the anti-vaxxers who are affected by this phenomenon. We all are! Social media has taken this bias to a whole new level. Now we get to click on things that we agree with followed by ‘recommendations’ that are in line with what we already believe to be true. If it wasn’t so incredibly scary, my psychology heart would jump for joy. We are in the ultimate global confirmation bias experiment. If only we could find a way to go back and set up a proper AB test. What would the world look like in category A?
In many ways, organisations are small versions of the broader world in which we live. An organisation has its own culture, its own assumptions, its own stories and its own biases. Like anywhere else in the world, confirmation bias in organisations tends to result in poor decision-making, in disregarding critical (challenging!) information, and therefore ultimately, in blocking innovation. Do you find yourself working in an environment where everyone seems to agree with each other most of the time and the information you are presented with miraculously always seems to support where you were already going anyway? You might be suffering from a serious case of confirmation bias! Let me give you your medication:
- Surround yourself with people who have a different point of view. This is not comfortable – but it is essential.
- Argue the other side when making a decision. You can do this individually or in a group. It seems simple, but it works!
- Feed yourself conflicting information. You might follow a podcast of someone who you couldn’t disagree with more, or only allow yourself to ask questions (as opposed to arguing the other side!) when you speak with people, or read the Facebook feed of your least favourite person, or perhaps watch a documentary you think is an absolute waste of time. Do it – and do it consistently! It will be uncomfortable, but it will help with confirmation bias.
If you would like any more information on better decision-making processes and dealing with biases in innovation (or anything else innovation related!), please let me know via email@example.com; I’m always up for a chat!