Someone said, “Even a dead fish can go with the flow.” Very often, groups are formed because the thinking among the members broadly aligns. It creates camaraderie and meeting of minds; creates alignment and the journey towards the shared goal becomes easier if the group thinking is haphazard. They start swimming together. However, this tendency of conforming to the thinking of the group can be such a bias that the members would not have realised. It leads to poor decision-making, especially when it comes to battling on unfamiliar grounds or braving unprecedented storms; also, this hurts the chances of the group to spot new trends and potential opportunities.
This is not the only kind of cognitive bias we suffer from. What are the other types?
Many kinds of cognitive biases come on our way.
Some of us are overconfident and we are more than willing to take a plunge thinking that we will figure it out along the way. There is a deep-seated belief that there is nothing impossible and we are here to win. This kind of optimism in a leader’s outlook often is very encouraging for the followers and builds a sense of positivism and self-confidence in them. However, this could derail the long-term plans if the self-belief does not translate into ground-level reality. A vast majority of people thought that Russia will win the war against Ukraine in a matter of a few weeks, but the war shows no signs of ending even after a year and significant suffering across the world.
We hold some people either with horns or a halo. We are quick to ascribe extreme behaviours or outcomes to them. In reality, this might not always be true. Similarly, we tend to anchor our impressions, perception and inferences on information received first or from a source we trust rather than going into the details and figuring it out in a rational way. Though we do not have the world of time necessary to go into the details, this cannot be the excuse to justify one’s anchoring bias.
Sometimes, we tend to consider one’s beliefs and experiences in the past to be the basis for all decisions. Dissenting voices, contradictory viewpoints or unsupportive data trends do not create any impact on us because of our self-serving bias. Sometimes we tend to justify our view or decision by sighting random incidents that prove the point rather than a holistic assessment of the situation. This kind of situation keeps happening often while people drive on the roads. We attribute people jumping the lane to bad driving, poor behaviours, impoliteness and unwarranted aggression; when we do such a thing, we attribute this to the situation we were in. This is a fundamental attribution bias.
In reality, biases cannot be removed.
We analyse the information at hand and lean on the insights we have gathered through our experiences in life while taking a decision. These insights are a result of the lenses through which we absorb our experiences. Hence, the process of decision-making is a labyrinth of a set of objective parameters and a set of subjective considerations. We have to be cognizant of this and work with this rather than battling the clouds of subjectivity that take their seat firmly in the mind of the decision-maker.
How does one deal with them?
One cannot procrastinate on decisions given the speed at which our business environment has been developing. We must recognise the biases that we are prone to suffer from. Rather than battling the biases, we have to surround ourselves with people who have the comfort and the duty to raise questions about potential biases one may be operating with.
One has to be sure that the assumptions made in the reading of the context, the potential dimensions in analysing the data and the possible inferences drawn from past experiences are relevant and meaningful. Leaders have to be humble enough to shed their cognitive biases like over-confidence, authority, self-serving thoughts and faulty causality.