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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Nuggets of Management Wisdom #19

Don't promote the culture of "confirmation bias" if you want your organization to achieve greatness.

Time and again I have noticed that a large number of people in organizations suffer from "confirmation bias", a deadly corporate disease that attracts you to people who think in the same patterns as you do, while repels you from people who don't think at the same wavelengths as you do.

This is a serious problem. Ideas always blossom amid diversity of thought and action. If the diversity is discouraged, staleness sets in any organization and one finds oneself gasping for fresh air in such an environment. In current times, when world is always in a flux and operating environments of organizations are extremely dynamic; innovation and execution come at a premium. Innovation is something that realizes its full potential only when divergent minds meet and collaborate to shape it up. So is the case with flawless execution; multiple hands of many a thought collaborate to execute an idea to action. When you exhibit "confirmation bias", you stifle the flowering of ideas and innovation in your organization as there is always an "inside-out view" in play without any "outside-in view" to spice up the things and let the creative juices flow in search of an out-of-the-box solution.

One major offshoot of the "confirmation bias" disease in any organization is that it repels talented people away from the organization. In a culture that promotes "confirmation bias", it is very difficult, perhaps impossible, to attract and retail talented people. Talented people tend to question the status quo and often look away from routine way of solving problems. They tend to ask difficult questions and challenge others, even their superiors. This threatens comfort zones of people who are deeply rooted in the culture of "confirmation bias" and prompts them to alienate, ignore, or even punish those who think differently. As a result, talented people tend to move away from an environment that punishes them to think differently.

In the end, it is the organization that suffers. In the absence of an internal environment to fuel fresh, innovative, and divergent thinking, it keeps doing same thing again and again till it is done to death by the ever changing external environment.

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