In our last post, we discussed the challenges of poor leadership engagement and the seven types of bias that create risk-averse culture: Loss Aversion Bias, Status Quo Bias, Fundamental Attribution Error, Confirmation Bias, Existence Bias, Familiarity Principle, and Regret Avoidance Bias.
With all of these biases in play, the challenge of eliminating bias from decision-making can seem overwhelming! However, humans are more than just the sum of our neurochemical impulses, and there are simple strategies that can be employed both individually and on an organizational level to ensure that the effect of bias on the decision-making process is reduced.
Steps for Overcoming Bias
1. Be aware of your biases
The most important step in overcoming bias in your decision-making process is simply being aware of your biases. without falling prey to self-delusion. We all know that we shouldn’t be influenced by bias, but biases are something that we all have, and simply being aware of what our biases are is a huge first step toward minimizing the impact of bias on our decision-making process. After all, it impossible to overcome an obstacle if we are busy pretending that the obstacle does not exist.
2. Challenge your own views and values
Simply being aware of bias is a good start, but awareness alone isn’t enough. In order to overcome bias and the negative effects it has on decision-making, we need to commit to challenging our own views and values. Examining closely held beliefs can be uncomfortable, but effective decision-making is impossible if we are not willing to think critically about what we believe and value.
3. Use a decision-making process
In order to minimize the effect that biases have on information-gathering and evaluation, it can be tremendously helpful to use a decision-making process. When looking at a problem, identify possible alternatives, define criteria for success, gather research about your alternatives (without discarding research that doesn’t fit your assumptions), then evaluate your alternatives according to your criteria for success – using research to support your evaluation.
It can seem cumbersome, but breaking down the decision-making process into a number of smaller sub-tasks forces us to be more aware of our thinking, which allows us to be critical of internal bias. And having a process that is followed consistently for each major decision will create a culture of critical decision-making.
4. Make it safe to challenge the status quo
In order to overcome biases that predispose us toward lack of change, the status quo has to be challenged. It’s important to examine current environments, processes, and systems and ask if they are working as intended? Are they serving a purpose, or are they getting in the way of productivity? Is there a clear reason why things are done this way, or is this simply “the way things have always been done”?
However, challenging the status quo is something that is often perceived as risky, because of the degree to which many organizations resist change. Leaders need to create a culture that encourages workers to feel safe in questioning the way things are done. Your front-line workers have valuable insights into the daily-to-day struggles of delivering your products and services. Empower them to speak honestly about their challenges instead of telling them not to rock the boat.
5. Seek diverse perspectives
An important part of overcoming bias in decision-making is having a diversity of viewpoints and opinions reflected in the decision-making process. When the people making major decisions all reflect the same background, it’s easy for default biases and assumptions to go unchallenged. Taking action to ensure your decision process involves diverse employees from all levels of the organization will not only help you reduce decision-making bias, but will also deliver additional benefits; research has shown that inclusive teams make business decisions that are better and faster than non-inclusive teams:
- Inclusive teams make better business decisions up to 87% of the time.
- Inclusive teams make decisions twice as fast with half the number of meetings, as compared to non-inclusive teams
Decisions made by inclusive teams delivered results that were 60% better than non-inclusive teams (Cloverpop)
The wave of digital is coming, and it is up to company leadership to decide how they will meet that wave. The majority of companies have not invested in strategies to meet the wave and are simply treading water, hoping to keep their head above water when the wave comes. The companies that have chosen to tread water face an uncertain fate – some will survive, but others will be pulled under. A very few companies are choosing to invest in digital and are preparing to ride the wave into revenue growth and new markets; those companies will be the market leaders as digital evolution continues ever onward.
Of course, that’s not to say that it’s too late to get back in the game.
The challenges posed by legacy systems and organizational silos are real, but they are not impossible to overcome – so long as executives are willing to recognize the role they need to play in enacting real change. When company leadership fully engages with digital transformation through support for change initiatives and challenging stale thinking, they can realistically assess the challenges they face and make effective decisions to overcome them.
However, companies also need to be prepared to face short-term budgetary pain if they want to reap the benefits of digital transformation. With the majority of IT budgets being consumed by the day-to-day costs of keeping legacy systems operational, additional money needs to be invested in getting through the transition period. Further, company leadership needs to fully commit to change as a process, and not a project of fixed duration and set objectives.
The ever-shifting digital landscape can be confusing, but one thing is clear: our digital destinies are not written in stone or determined by fate. How we respond to the challenge of digital is up to us.