Life is full of choices and options, and how we choose, has the most profound impact on us in everyday life. Our ability to take sound decisions indicates that we posses intelligence, judgement, and awareness.
How we make decisions is largely depended on how actually store information. Interlinking of information with another that causes a web or link of patterns, which enables recall and memory. In cognitive thinking we collect information both consciously and subconsciously (i.e. without actively seeking information). In an unfamiliar territory where you have little information, you are likely to take more time to react and reach a decision because your mind is unable to make those connections. While in a familiar situation, based on prior data and experiences, we map the information chain and react quickly. This causes biases in our decision making. Nobel Prize winner ,Professor Daniel Kahenman from Princeton University proved how are Cognitive Biases drove our decision making process . (His insights on spending patterns via cognitive biases have led to a whole branch in economics – behavioural economics)
Here are some of the three familiar cognitive biases we display while at work, which alters our decision making.
- Anchoring Bias: We read a new piece of information. We become over-reliant on that information and make decisions based on that. For eg. You are negotiating salary in a new job, the first information you heard was from a friend on possible salary ranges. You will now negotiate the salary, based on those ranges, which could impact your final offer.
How to overcome it : The anchoring bias generally comes into effect when you take decisions hastily or you feel the need to respond back quickly. If you feel the pressure of making the decision, ask for time or make the time to reflect on the decision. In this information over laden times, it would seem callous if you haven’t taken the time to research facts, before arriving at a decision.
- Bandwagon Effect: Just because it is the latest trend impact, when you see many people adopting a belief there is a high probability of you jumping into the bandwagon of the same belief. A reason why sometimes, even if there has been a long drawn meeting on ideation, big and evident pitfalls are missed.
How to overcome it: You are likely to feel the pressure of being left behind or seem unpopular if you don’t go with the flow of the crowd(which could be true). But if the decision is going to have adverse repercussions on you or if you are leading the decision making process itself, your interests are best served, if you understand the cons and pitfalls to the decision. Including finding other options which could be more viable and voicing them.
- Confirmation Bias : We tend to believe and trust only that information, which confirms are perspective or pre-conception. Cultures within workspace is a direct result of confirmation bias- we have tried and failed, he is below average, she is the best QA In this bias, as per research one is more likely to remember negative things more easily and make decisions based on those negative impacts. This cognitive becomes especially harmful, when we apply those biases on how we treat our team-members. We slot them into categories and fit all their actions based on our perceptions.
How to overcome it: Diversity is the key. Make an effort to get out of your comfort zone, and meet folks with diverse view points. Read an alternating point of view and welcome change. The first step in correcting this bias is to recognize this behaviour.
It’s difficult, to spot and correct our cognitive biases. But it is easier to have a routine or a process on how you arrive at decisions, which could counter the negative impact of biases. E.g. Like being well-read , having a wide variety of interests, taking time to respond etc. Your ability to make good decisions reflects your skills at being a good leader.