5 Biases that Could Be Hurting Your Ability to Make a Decision

Joe Weinlick
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Managers and business leaders have a variety of different decision-making tools to bring to bear when they need them. These tools may include cognitive checklists, resources that allow them to verify information, or an assortment of similar methods that help ensure they make the best decision possible with the information provided. Decision-making tools can be a great way to ensure that you do not fall back into a biased pattern that may prevent you from seeing important facts or details, and here are five biases that can seriously derail the decision making process.

The decision-making tools available depend heavily on the management skills and experience of each individual leader. Business leaders come from a variety of different backgrounds and may or may not recognize their potential for bias. Input and confirmation biases are especially dangerous, as they can dramatically alter the effectiveness of decisions. Input bias takes the form of making key assumptions based on very basic or limited information. Seeing that an employee's office door is closed and assuming it means that person is always working is a sign of input bias. Confirmation bias results in a similar problem. Managers who suffer from this bias often make up their minds about how something is or works before they evaluate the evidence. They then tackle the evidence looking for confirmation of their initial decisions.

Social and cultural biases can also derail your decision-making tools. Social bias, including the desire to maintain harmony in your office or team, can lead to poor decisions by enticing leaders to not explore all available options. It often occurs when other team members adopt the attitude of following the leader regardless of their own insights. Cultural bias may also be difficult to see from the inside. Every office has its own culture, and many suffer from internal cliques of people who either follow the leader or work in opposition to other managers or teams as a matter of habit. Managers who suffer from cultural bias will often ignore or minimize the impact of information coming from those they view as outside the inner circle.

One of the most difficult biases to identify is a stability bias. This interferes with your decision-making tools by leading you to knee-jerk reactions against risk. Business leaders may simply not wish to change their course of action, especially if earlier changes have met with less-than-desirable results. This bias is exceptionally hard to see because it may appear to be a sound decision based on past performance, but it instead arises from fear of failure. Making the right choice involves using your management skills to determine risk and reward levels based on current conditions instead of those of the past.

These five biases can wreak havoc with a manager's decision-making tools. Confirmation, input, social, cultural, and stability biases can lead to bad decisions and an ineffective work environment. Only by identifying and overcoming these biases can a manager or business leader truly be certain that they are choosing the best possible course of action when they rely on their decision-making tools.



(Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net)


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