Leaders have a big problem. We are constantly making major decisions through a biased worldview. When those decisions are wrong, there can be major consequences.
We see worldview when we visit a foreign country. Should we eat dinner at 5pm or 9pm? We see this when we work with another company. Should we print slides, project slides, or forget slides altogether? Should the slides be dense or have lots of white space?
These are all trivial examples. But what happens when we make really bad decisions because of bias? Have you been really excited about an innovative idea, only to have your boss reject it because something similar was tried before and failed? Perhaps 15 years ago under radically different circumstances?
What if you are leading a team that has developed lifelong habits through a biased worldview? In an effort to get better results, how easy is it for them to see the power of doing their jobs differently?
This is not a problem that we face infrequently. Some sources claim 35,000 daily decisions are made by the typical adult. All decisions are made with imperfect data and all are colored through our worldview. Our worldviews are built upon years of experience and are subject to bias. These are very helpful to efficiently making lots of decisions with imperfect data, but sometimes those decisions are wrong and sometimes those wrong decisions have major consequences.
How do we continue decision-making, but consciously reduce the bias influencing those decisions?
- Recognize that we are all biased based upon our prior experiences and imperfect data.
- Resist the urge to rush through major decisions. Instead, deliberately plan a disciplined approach to going through the decision-making process.
- Establish an environment where challenging is rewarded, not punished.
- Diversify the stakeholders to encompass multiple worldviews (and biases).
- Plan probing, open-ended questions.
- Inventory major assumptions that may influence the outcome.
- Select some assumptions to test through evidence.
- Plan safe events to wipe the slate clean and rethink prior decisions.