How leaders recognize and overcome cognitive biases that impede critical thinking

cognitive bias

Summary: Cognitive biases can impede critical thinking and decision-making. When leaders make more objective and informed decisions, they move to the head of the pack of successful companies.

Dear Dr. Sylvia,

What’s a gal to do?

My senior team is looking at how we can do better with strategic planning.

My colleague told me that in their organization, they are learning about how critical thinking makes the most significant difference in how fast they agree on the next steps.

As a result, she also said there was powerful learning about how each team member had to let go of old patterns.

Cognitive biases come in many different forms.

By that, I mean everyone had to learn to ask more questions rather than defend their points of view.

Can you please give us a shortcut to learning about Cognitive Bias and how that can disarm even the best organization if left to fester?

Thus, we win if we can hold each other accountable and look beyond the obvious.

Thanks for helping us be the best we can be.


Ready to Learn

Success escalates when you learn how to tame cognitive biases.

Dear Ready to Learn,

Firstly, I want to acknowledge you for helping your team grow and become more effective at work.

Let’s dive deep into this area of behavior under the obvious.

This area in psychology is called the unconscious. Let me explain.

In other words, think of the “Iceberg Theory,” where so much is hidden from plain sight. Yet, it still there needing attention.

The Iceberg Theory shows how much of our thinking lies underneath the obvious.

For example, do you remember the story of The Titanic? When the ship’s captain said some variation of “Turn to the left to miss the mass of ice,” he was unaware of how much was out of sight under the water.

That is, until the crunch!

Here is a way to “look inside yourself,” kinda an x-ray for the mind.

Consequently, it is the same concept for understanding the mental and emotional aspects of relating.

Cognitive Bias is a phenomenon that affects all human beings, including those in the workplace.

It refers to the tendency to think in a certain way based on preconceived notions and personal beliefs rather than objective facts. This can lead to poor decision-making, reduced productivity, and an unhealthy work environment.

In other words, overcoming Cognitive Bias in the workplace is critical for success.

Awareness is the first step to untangling Cognitive Bias. Here are some strategies that can help:

For example, the first step in overcoming Cognitive Bias is to become aware of it. This means recognizing when you are making assumptions or jumping to conclusions based on personal beliefs rather than facts.

Indeed, by acknowledging your biases, you can begin to take steps to counteract them.

Mindfulness is a way to stay at the observation of your actions so you can decide what to change.

Mindfulness is a practice that involves being present at the moment and paying attention to your thoughts and feelings without judgment.

Therefore, by being more mindful, you can become more aware of your biases and open to alternative viewpoints.

Mindful people are less susceptible to cognitive biases and less likely to use inappropriate shortcuts to solve problems.

Often, solving complex issues fast is a way to alleviate anxiety. However, it does not necessarily lead to the best outcomes.

Diversity at work definitely can help reduce cognitive Bias.

Diversity in the workplace can help to reduce cognitive Bias.

Working with people from different backgrounds and diverse perspectives can challenge your assumptions and help you see things in a new light.

Therefore the teams at work become better problem solvers with a deeper understanding of the issues. More creative input from varying perspectives often leads to an “aha” moment and increases enhanced innovation opportunities.

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others.

By developing empathy, you can better understand the perspectives of those around you and reduce the impact of cognitive Bias.

Being open causes individuals to look outward.

In other words, we learn, as the indigenous ancestors, teach, to walk in another’s moccasins.

Thus, you start to see real people behind the problems, leading to new ways of asking questions and solving conflicts.

Collaborate for a common purpose to achieve business benefits.

Collaborating with others can help to overcome cognitive Bias. By working with a team, you can bring together diverse viewpoints and ideas, leading to better decision-making and more innovative solutions.

Overcoming cognitive Bias is not always easy, but it is essential for creating a healthy and productive work environment.

By being aware of your biases, practicing mindfulness, embracing diversity, developing empathy, and collaborating with others, you can overcome your cognitive biases and succeed in the workplace.

In conclusion, the workplace can be a challenging environment to navigate, but by overcoming cognitive Bias, we can create a more inclusive and productive workplace.

By recognizing our biases, being mindful, embracing diversity, developing empathy, and collaborating with others, we can overcome cognitive Bias and build stronger, more resilient teams.

Let us all strive to create a work environment where everyone can thrive and succeed, regardless of their background or beliefs.

Cognitive Bias impacts all and needs the attention of leadership.

Here are some stories about individuals my team and I have worked with.

You can see several types of cognitive Bias and consider which one has your name on it.

At Creative Energy Options Inc., we offer the way OUT: to Observe, Understand, and Transform old patterns and beliefs that get in the form of success.

The OUT Technique gives straightforward, actionable ways to limit cognitive Bias within your team.

The OUT Technique is vital for getting a deep perspective on where your biases as stuck in the invisible realm that continues to rule you. Not just you, everyone!

Doing the work of bringing these biases to the conscious realm is essential for all, especially leaders.

Here are the main biases so you can see which one fits you

Confirmation Bias is the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of your past beliefs and theories.

For example, Sarah was a political science major who believed her political party had the best policies.

One day, her professor gave her an assignment to write an essay about the opposing party’s policies.

At first, Sarah struggled to find any positive aspects of their policies. However, she realized that her biased thinking prevented her from critically evaluating the opposing party’s policies.

She started to read different sources, including those with opposing viewpoints, and eventually, she could write an essay that analyzed the policies objectively.

Availability Heuristic (Bias) is a mental shortcut that relies on immediate examples that comes to a person’s mind when evaluating a specific topic.

Faced with th need for an immediate decision, this type of thinking allows people to conclude quickly.

John, a software developer, was given a project to build a new software program. He remembered a similar program he had made and thought it would be easy to replicate.

However, he realized that he relied on the availability heuristic, which is the tendency to judge based on the most readily available information.

John researched and found that the new program had different requirements and needed a different approach. He completed the project successfully by recognizing and overcoming his Cognitive Bias.

Overconfidence Bias is the tendency to overestimate knowledge and abilities when making decisions.

Tom was a financial analyst with a reputation for being a top performer in his company. One day, he made a significant investment recommendation to his client, which was wrong.

Ultimately, he realized he had been overconfident in his analysis and had not considered all the relevant factors.

Tom recognized that his overconfidence bias had caused him to make a mistake, and he took steps to improve his analytical skills and decision-making processes.

Eventually, he realized he made decisions too quickly to diminish his anxiety.

He realized he was feeding his anxiety rather than making the right decision.

That helped him calm down. In my book “Invisible Stress (It’s NOT What YOU Think) are many examples of how to make the changes needed to go beyond the fear of making a mistake.

Anchoring Bias occurs when you rely too heavily on the first piece of information you receive on the topic.

Samantha was negotiating the price of a used car with a dealer. The dealer offered a higher price than Samantha’s initial offer, and she felt she had to accept it since it was still lower than the original price.

That is to say; she recognized that she was falling prey to the anchoring Bias, which is the tendency to rely too heavily on the first piece of information encountered.

She researched the fair market value of the car and was able to negotiate a better deal by using that information as a starting point.

Hindsight Bias happens when the tendency is to look back at an event and think it was easy to predict.

Mark was the CEO of a company that had just experienced a significant downturn. He was known as the “Knew-it-all-along” guy.

Mark was convinced that he had seen the warning signs and had taken the necessary steps to prevent it.

However, when he analyzed the situation objectively, he realized that he was suffering from hindsight bias, which is the tendency to believe after an event has occurred, that one would have predicted or expected the outcome.

Most importantly, Mark recognized his cognitive Bias and learned to evaluate situations objectively without the influence of Hindsight Bias.

The companies that will be most successful have leaders who require staff to learn about what could hold them back.

They discuss the biases and make the appropriate changes to fit these difficult times. In my next post, I will discuss well-known companies that are leaders in understanding and changing cognitive biases.

Look for information about Airbnb, Apple, Google, Netflix, and Tesla.

Here’s to your success,

Sylvia Lafair

PS. We offer a personalized Zoom call with leadership teams to help make Cognitive Bias a thing of the past. Less stress comes with more understanding. Contact me for more information. It is a complimentary session. Also, here’s a free copy of my best-selling book Invisible Stress (It’s NOT What YOU Think). The world needs more than ever to get past Cognitive Bias.

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Creative Energy Options

Sylvia Lafair

Creative Energy Options