Balancing Bias for Better Decision Making

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Executives and CEOs make many decisions every day. It is impossible to give each of those decisions any deep analytical attention. We make some decisions under stressful conditions. We make other decisions with no real precedent as a guideline. We make other decisions because someone “wants it done that way.” Complicating decision making even further is the fact that we all make decisions with both logic and bias – even strategic decisions. Sometimes a decision has so much input that we’re not even sure what we were trying to solve in the first place. Oftentimes, it’s at this point that inaction rings the death knell for that issue and no decision comes forth. Is there a better way to make decisions?

As with many actions, thoughts, and behaviors, it is best to begin with ourselves. Understanding our own acumen or how our internal operating system functions when it comes to logic and bias. Here’s what this means. If you and I both see a dog, logically we can agree this furry creature standing before us is indeed a dog. Emotionally, we may be world’s apart upon eying this dog. You may readily approach the dog and begin interacting with it. I, on the other hand, may have reservations about even being around a dog unfamiliar to me. You, no doubt, have the experiences of good interactions with dogs. I, on the other hand, may only remember the time my neighbor’s dog, ran up to me, bit me, and tore my favorite dress.

Think about sales. Entrepreneurs, for example, logically know that selling is a big part of growing a business. On the other hand, selling for many is a bad emotional experience. Others may embrace it and love the excitement of the hunt for new customers and the thrill of closing a deal.

Many CEOs will bring the team together throw out an idea, listen while everyone debates it and then decide. Operating his cabinet in this manner is the way President Kennedy would make decisions or, so the story goes.

One CEO takes another approach. When an issue comes to the table such as an acquisition, new venture, product or whatever, each team member lists the good points and then lists the bad points around the issue. Each team member freezes judgement until all lists are complete. The final decision may be by consensus or the CEO may make it.

One word of caution, no matter how your team makes decisions, be sure that everyone knows that decision. One client who is an executive team member often laments that the CEO makes a decision but fails to relay it to the team!

It is essential that team members keep up with trends. This can make decision making easier. This is because while there may be biases, understanding what the customer wants, or where the economy is going, will often trump bias. Further, keeping up with trends keeps the team ahead of the curve, and allows for more timely decisions. This can trump the competition!

So, understand your biases, postpone judgment, and keep up with trends all help balance bias for better decision making.

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Price, R. (2018, July). 5 Reasons Why Understanding Acumen is So Important. TTI Success Insights
Komisar, R. (2010, March). How we do it: Three Executives Reflect on Strategic Decision Making. – Balance Out Biases McKinsey Quarterly.

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Decision Making,, Bias