Confirmation Bias: A Hindrance to Quality Decision Making

Fred Kiel addresses his ideas about disciplined decision making processes in his book Return on Character which focuses on the ways in which leaders with strong moral character make greater impacts on the companies they lead than do leaders with weak moral character.  Part of Kiel’s idea regarding these strong moral leaders is that they have worked on processes of self reflection, and they are able to control the quick emotional side of their brain in favor of the slow, deliberate, and rational part of their brain.  By understanding that their immediate reaction may provide valuable intuitions and by slowing down their decision making process to use reason over emotion, these leaders can make better decisions that help improve the lives of everyone, not just themselves.

 

While discussing this decision making process Kiel also mentions the idea of confirmation bias. He hits briefly on the idea that we find information that confirms thoughts and ideas that we had already developed which in our mind proves our thoughts correct.  Rather than seeking information that challenges our preconceived notions, we look for news stories, data points, and other people who see things the same way.  When we succumb to confirmation bias we begin to build a capsule of likeminded individuals around us that shields us from opposing thoughts and ideas.  The danger here is that our ideas could be wrong, impractical, morally shallow, or just not as advantageous for growth and progress as we think they are.  If we can become comfortable with shifting perspectives and learn to discuss other view points, then we will become a more well-rounded individual.

 

By striving to avoid confirmation bias leaders can make better decisions and be more connected to their employees, customers, and competition.  They can become more adaptive and better predict how the world in which they operate will change, giving them an advantage in moving forward. When leaders succumb to confirmation bias they have only one option for success, and if it does not pan out they will not have the flexibility and varying perspectives to turn the situation around.

 

When we incorporate multiple perspectives we can actually better develop our own perspective.  We can begin to add new parts and pieces to our ideas helping them become more robust.  The goal of finding new perspectives should not be to stockpile our own ammunition against those perspectives, but to better understand why others see the world in those differing manners so that we can better connect with them and better adapt to suite not just our own needs, but everyones.  To truly avoid confirmation bias you must seek out other information which conflicts with your thoughts, and you must digest that information from multiple perspectives.
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