Cognitive biases can affect our decision-making abilities even when we are not aware of them. Even when we are fully thinking through a decision, these biases can affect our choices and limit the options we pick from.
We are constantly making decisions throughout the day, in work, at home, and out in public. In all decisions, there are a huge number of factors at play which guide our choices, some we are aware of and some we are not.
We may not be aware of the subconscious biases which guide our decision-making process away from choices we may not even see as options. If you are in a managerial position, this can affect the strength of your leadership and create negative consequences.
These subconscious decision-making biases can severely limit our options without us realizing it.
The key to stopping the decision-making biases you may suffer from is to identify what they may be and become more aware of how they affect you. This will make your decision making much more objective and fair, which in turn will open up many more choices to you.
The authority bias favors the opinions of authority figures within the team rather than taking into consideration the ideas of the whole group. This bias works under the assumption that those in authority positions have better innovation skills than those in lower positions. This closes off these possibilities for innovation by simply not considering them.
Another version of this bias is that any innovative idea has to be passed by managerial positions. This can slow down the process, or stop it altogether.
- ‘Management won’t allow that’
- ‘Nobody would be interested in a product like that’
No one likes ambiguity, especially in business. The ambiguity bias favors options with clear outcomes rather than those which seem risky. This has huge impacts on innovation or experimentation because it completely cuts out the possibility for change. In our personal lives, this can end the possibility for new experiences because it limits us to the same everyday routines.
- ‘How do we even know that will work?’
- ‘That’s too risky’
Conformity bias can have deep effects on our decision-making as one of the most common biases. It is always daunting to stop conforming to what is expected of us and this can affect how we think and make choices. This leads to self-censorship and a reduction in creativity which stops us from trying new things.
- ‘This is too disorderly’
- ‘This idea is too outrageous’
Confirmation bias looks to find ideas and methods which confirm our pre-existing beliefs instead of trying something completely different. This keeps us working within the same framework of ideas and technology because we think it is the ‘right’ way to work.
- ‘Previous research shows different conclusions’
- ‘That doesn’t fit with what we already know’
Some risks entail a small amount of loss before a large gain can be involved, but we generally tend to avoid loss where we can. At the same time, once a decision has been made, it can be difficult to stick to when we see multiple losses before the final gain. This leads us to avoid losses at all times, even when they may produce a huge gain in the final product.
- ‘It would cost too much if it fails’
- ‘We can’t afford such a risk’
Having to act
It is a common decision-making bias when we absolutely have to act, even when we aren’t sure what to do. This can lead us to make silly mistakes from making bad decisions, just because we felt that something had to be done. Sometimes, it can actually be beneficial to let a situation play itself out and go from there, rather than intervening at a bad time.
- ‘We have to do something’
- ‘We cannot let this continue’
The self-serving bias favors choices and decisions that boost our self-esteem. This can lead us to take sole ownership of any benefits from a decision, which in turn leads to a loss of moral from the team as a whole. Within partnerships and teams, it is important that all members feel involved in the process of producing benefits.
- ‘I think this is how it should be done’
- ‘I know that this is the best option’
Linked to the conformity bias, the status quo bias favors the current system and knowledge rather than trying something new. It is more an emotional bias than cognitive because breaking away from the status quo can be daunting.
- ‘That’s how it’s always been done’
- ‘That’s not how things are done around here’
Breaking away from decision-making biases is the best way to open up new options and act more objectively. It can be difficult to learn where your cognitive biases are and to become self-aware of them but, when you do, your decision-making will be much stronger.
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