Our judgement, reactions and actions are influenced by our instincts and bias. Our experiences and learnings influence our instincts and bias. In life and at work, perception bias affects our judgement. Most of the times, we do not realize the implications of perception bias.
“Candidate A will be a better fit for the position compared to candidates B and C.”
“I don’t think this customer will approve our proposal.”
“Customers in urban areas will not respond to our marketing message.”
These and many other such assessments and hypothesis at work are results of our previous experiences and learnings. These are being influenced by our “perception bias”. I am afraid to say that a lot of companies simply don’t do enough for hypothesis testing.
Business decisions and tactics based on unproven hypothesis and bias often lead to poor results. You may have a rare win at times. However, that win will not accompany any validated learnings for you.
Before we proceed, let us agree on one point. We cannot eliminate perception bias. It is a human behavior. We need to work around it to reduce the instances of bad judgement.
How can you minimize the effects of perception bias in decision making?
The instincts become better over time as we learn from our actions and experiences. However a check-point needs to be established to avoid “bad decisions”.
Create check points for key decision reviews
- Identify key decisions for your organization, department or team. These are decisions that have a major impact on the business outcome or KPIs. A few of these could be recruitment for key positions, approving a marketing plan and budget, deciding not to pursue a certain customer etc.
- Based on past experiences and data, create a “Go / No-go” check list. A common example is a recruitment scoring sheet. Each member of the interview panel rates the candidate for each parameter. The average rating helps calculate a final score. Based on previous benchmarks, the score is an indicator of the candidate’s eligibility for the role. The score is indicative. There may be cases where you need to question the score and the combined judgement of the panel. However, in most cases, your team makes an objective judgement based on data. You eliminated the bias of personal or cultural likes and dislikes in the recruitment process.
- Any exceptions to the checklist needs to be documented with reasons. A periodic review helps refine the checklist to keep it relevant
Measure the effectiveness of key decisions
- Start measuring short term and long term effectiveness of key decisions
- This helps in giving feedback to the team and in refining the check list
- For example, how many new employees successfully complete their on job training. This is the short term effectiveness of the recruitment process
- How many new employees successfully complete their probation? This is the long term effectiveness of the recruitment process
- Constant feedback will help move from “perception bias” to “learned bias”
- Employees fear to fail
- The failure of poor decisions reflect in employee performance scorecards. These affect their increments and promotions
- Most companies lack a culture that encourages experimentation. Decision makers need to have the freedom to fail. The freedom and flexibility lets them take bold decisions that quite often turn out to be changemakers
- When they fear to fail, employees choose to play safe