Tell Me I'm Pretty

Make better decisions by understanding confirmation bias

By Trevor Orsztynowicz on

One of the best parts about the scientific method is that negative results are celebrated as much as positive ones. While a negative result is sometimes less of a joyous occasion, having an answer is regarded as better than not knowing at all. Being impartial and viewing results without prejudice is the hallmark of a great researcher.

Unfortunately though, even great scientists are guilty of selectively interpreting or ignoring unfavourable data. The same thing happens to anyone with an idea they feel passionate about. This is due to confirmation bias - the tendency for people to favor information that confirms their beliefs whether or not the information is true.

Remove Emotion & Ask Better Questions

As entrepreneurs, this happens all too often. We search for information that confirms our initial idea, rather than contradicts it. Some great entrepreneurs understand this and search for a much wider variety of solutions to a problem. It sometimes helps to envision opposing solutions to your idea, then figure out what makes your solution or idea still work. This is why confirming your idea properly with a good customer development strategy is so essential.

Here are a few things that might help you overcome confirmation bias

Understand Motivation

When you’re consuming information or discussing an idea, think about who is telling you something and why. You should be especially nervous if only one realistic suggestion is given.

Remove Emotion

Is someone totally in love with their idea? To be fair, passion sells product, but love oversells and hate denounces. It’s important to understand the costs and benefits of strategies and solutions before you go and implement them. Be aware of the backfire effect.

Groupthink

Does everyone in a group agree? You should probably be concerned. Given a large enough group of people, you’ll always have a dissenting voice. That voice should be listened to, and their opinion should be taken seriously. You dont want a group that’s too large (design by committee - hurray) but you should be able to be challenged in your opinion and be able to defend your decision.

Hindsight Bias

Are you looking through a lens of your past decisions? Its important to understand that hindsight bias plays an important part in how we make decisions.

You have to prepare yourself for surprises. The good kind and the bad kind. I consider preparing yourself for the worst and hoping for the best a “best practice”. When you understand that a flop or a failure is a possibility, you can plan around the situation a lot better than had you gone into something with blind optimism.