Monday, 24 July 2017

Deliberately Accounting for Bias

(Kinane, 2017)
Recently I read a great little post from Harvard Business Review's daily mailer, "The Management Tip of the Day", for deliberately reducing bias in decision-making. This simple technique was proposed by Thomas Redman, and further, will not add much time to the process.

Confirmation bias is our very human trait of assuming new evidence aligns with what we were expecting to see. This is a hear hooves; expect horses, not zebras thing (Woodward, 1950).

We all know that it is impossible to have either enough time or enough data to make a perfect decision. We tend use the Pareto principle (Sanders, 1992), and make up our minds when we have about 80% of what we need. However, often that 80% may be all stacked up on the "reasons why we should" side of the ledger. We forget to carefully consult the another side: reasons why we shouldn't.

Thomas suggests that we put on the devil's advocate hat, and "Gather the data you would need to defend this opposite view, and compare it with the data used to support your original decision. Reevaluate your decision in light of the bigger data set. Your perspective may still be incomplete, but it will be much more balanced" (HBR, 5 July 2017).

What a simple idea. Not too difficult to do; not too time hungry. It helps us build in the 'what ifs' in our decision-making process as a habitual step, instead of simply skimming over the "consider alternatives" stage of the process.

Remember to include the "reasons why we shouldn't" in your decision-making.



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