POV: Harvard Business Review – Outsmart Your Own Biases.

Outsmart Your Own BiasesPoint-of-View: Outsmart Your Own Biases

Harvard Business Review (HBR) May 2015


  • Dangerous to rely too heavily on what experts call System 1 thinking – automatic judgments from associations stored in memory – instead of logically working through the information that’s readily available (System 2 thinking).
  • System 2 thinking can also be dangerous because of deliberate reasoning gone awry, cognitive limitations, or laziness.
  • Everyone is susceptible to such biases, especially when we are fatigued, stressed, or multi-tasking. Out of survival it is easier to seek closure then spend the mental energy entertaining uncertainties.
  • Think twice! When we think more than once about a problem, we often come at with a different perspective, adding valuable information. Allow time for reconsideration.
  • Use premortems! Known as prospective hindsight, imagine a future failure and then explain the cause. By identifying the problems before they occur we have a better chance of avoiding them.
  • Articulating, documenting, and organizing our priorities helps us and others to see the pathways clearly that make the most sense.
  • Cycle through your priorities! Looking at priorities all at once instead of one at a time helps us to come up with more alternatives.
  • Avoid functional fixedness by being constrained about assumptions of what works and does not work and not considering multiple types of solutions to a problem. A decision can be no better than the best option under consideration.
  • Establish “trip wires” (deadlines, critical milestones) for initiatives upfront so if tripped it signals an immediate reevaluation of if/how to redirect resources.
  • Tools such as visual aids and checklists can improve decision readiness by reducing the burden on our memory or attention.

Our Point of View:

  • Focusing on the “3 thru 9” is the key to making better business decisions! Spending time upfront for the “3 thru 9” will allow us to spend less time overall. Analogous to “think twice”… measure twice, cut once… its always worth it!
  • Less than 1% of initiatives deliver to expectations (scope, time, resources). Count on failure and then work backwards to improve your odds of success.
  • Having decisions-making standards readily available helps stakeholders avoid the traps of System 1 and System 2.
  • Flawed System 1 and System 2 thinking occurs every day as we make business decisions. We refer to this as doing a “1..2..10”. We “1..2..10” as a matter of survival.
  • Access to business decision-making standards allow us to make better business decisions with less time, burden (fatigue), and risk.

pdfOutsmart Your Own Biases.

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