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2 Tricky Things Playing Tricks on Your Mind
Let's talk about 2 cognitive biases that prevent us from discovering and pursuing better alternatives in life
Lately, I’ve been working on the book segment dealing with discovery, a continuous process of learning in product management. You can imagine that discovery is also beneficial in our lives.
So, I was thinking, what are some biases that can mess with us during this important process?
Sharing 2 of these, and how to avoid them.
Tricky Thing 1: Confirmation Bias
Confirmation bias is our tendency to look for, notice, focus on and value more evidence that fits our existing beliefs.
Both in product management and our daily life, this bias can lead us to make poor decisions. Not only will we look for evidence that goes in favor of our preconceived beliefs, but we will give more weight to them over any contradicting evidence. This distorts the reality, and prevents us from discovering new (possibly better) alternatives to our choices.
Don’t Let It Trick You…
The first step to fight against confirmation bias is being aware of it and that it is a problem. Try to start with a neutral fact base (a lucky circumstance is that this bias tends to occur early in the discovery and decision-making process), and also always ask yourself – if I could go back in time, would I make the same decisions and commitments?
Tricky Thing 2: Commitment Bias
Similarly to confirmation bias, commitment bias makes us remain committed to our past behaviors, even if they don’t have desirable outcomes or the circumstances have changed. This is especially strong in relation to behaviors we displayed publicly.
In product management, we may continue to invest in a feature or initiative that's not giving desired results, instead of discovering alternatives. In our life, there are many examples from small to big stuff. We could continue investing in a losing business, continue supporting a political candidate even if we may not agree with their policies and stances anymore, or we may stay in a bad relationship as we invested a lot of time, effort, and emotions in it, even if it is no longer healthy or fulfilling.
Don’t Let It Trick You…
Like with confirmation bias, the first step is being aware. It is not easy to fight it though, as we have a natural tendency toward consistency, may feel like we don’t have the right to change our mind, and may worry others will think poorly of us for making bad decisions. (This last one is funny as if the fact that we stick to a bad decision makes it not bad.)
Next, keep an open mind, challenge your assumptions, and seek impartial feedback to evaluate decisions objectively. Remember that changes are natural – with new context and circumstances, new learnings and evidence, it is not only natural but a smart thing to change our mind if appropriate.
Let me know what you think of these tricky things. Are you interested in more?
Are you interested in learning about discovery?
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