We’ve been asked by many of our customers for periodic, no-nonsense emails with just-in-time information for managers and knowledge workers on how organizations work. This is our 12th edition and we hope you enjoy it.
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What We're Reading
I've read a number of books this month, however none of them really stand out enough to recommend. Ok, I have to admit the Eric Clapton and Pattie Boyd biographies were fascinating, but I can't figure out how to apply sex, drugs and rock & roll to "just-in-time" information for you.
Instead, what did catch my attention was the list of biases that Andrea and I address in our Constructive Group Conversation classes. I was covering them in a recent webinar and they grabbed me again as very useful to review. We learned a lot about these biases from Professor David Woods of Ohio State University. Dr. Woods gave testimony to Congress about the role of 'hindsight bias' in the Columbia (shuttle) accident. He's written and posted some very interesting papers around the intersection of technology and people. Biases limit our ability to make high quality decisions and to innovate and learn. "Revise and Reassess" are the watchwords of Dr Wood's work and I hope you are inspired to revise and reassess something in your work today.
- Confirmation Bias: Decision-makers may explain away anything that doesn't quite fit; therefore possibly missing a warning that something is wrong. This is a result of 'confirmation bias.' Confirmation bias is looking only for information that supports your hypothesis or proposed decision. The way to avoid this is to force an analysis of "what if this were wrong" for the favored choice.
- Hindsight Bias: Once the result is known, it's easy to over simplify what people 'saw' at that time. Remember all organizations have multiple goals that often compete. Trade-offs and decisions are made in the moment without complete information. When you look back in hindsight, you have the complete information that people didn't have when they made the decisions. To overcome this bias, look for the trade-offs people made without realizing they were sacrificing one goal for another. What long-standing goals were ignored when pressure to perform was applied?
- First Impression Bias: You make a split second decision based on your first impression (See Blink by Malcolm Gladwell) and you don't even realize it. The way to avoid this is to surface your assumptions/impressions. Go back and 'look' again, compare your impression with others.
- Distance Bias: Organizations discount learning from situations that they believe don't reflect their situation. They believe the other situation was too different from their own to be worthy of their attention. We find this a lot in the form of industry bias. For example, I find that the health care industry is sure they are too unique to learn from, for example, the airline industry. But it also happens within an organization when one department believes they are so different from another department that they have nothing to learn from the other's experience. The way around this bias is to look for similarities or to purposefully invite those with 'fresh eyes' to give you their view of the world.
- Fundamental Attribution Error Bias: After an accident or surprise, the 'first stories' told tend to attribute blame to a person or persons (operator error) that made mistakes in isolation of the system. Generally they don't take into account the complexity of the situation. It takes 'intentional' inquiry into the system to identify how multiple and competing demands affect individual decisions.
- Past Success Bias: Past success blinds the organization to a possible "drift towards failure." This plays out in organizations that say something like, "We've been in business for 50 years so we've proven our competence." The organization only evaluates their environment through the lens of success not of possible failure. They miss important clues or warning signs until it is too late. Also known as hubris, the way around this bias is to approach the environment to look for data that doesn't fit past history and to regularly re-assess the assumptions the business relies on. It also helps to bring fresh perspectives to the table.
Smart People Skills Ships Nov. 8
Our newest book, The Thin Book of® Smart People Skills, will ship on November 8. Thank you to all who pre-ordered the book. We'd like your comments and reviews once you've actually had a chance to read it. For those who haven't yet explored this great new Thin Book, read Chapter 1, Understand How You Think. This would make a great End of Year gift to your co-workers, employees, or boss! The $10 introductory pricing will continue throughout November.
Team Trust Presentation
Team Trust, Using TrustTalk to Explore Trust & Collaboration in Teams is our newest downloadable presentation. This PowerPoint or Keynote presentation is designed for use with the TrustTalk™ Cards. It's included free with all TrustTalk purchases. The presentation can also be purchased, alone, for $39.95. If you've already purchased TrustTalk from us, you'll receive the presentation in a few days.
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Thanks for your interest and support.
Sue Annis Hammond