If you missed the setup (and the sting!), check out my previous post: Are your biases carved in stone?
Confirmation bias occurs when the desire to confirm your existing beliefs is so strong that you unconsciously discredit any evidence or arguments that don’t confirm those beliefs. At the same time, you view the arguments supporting your beliefs through rose-tinted lenses.
Again, this bias means trouble. Consider how many employers bemoan the Millennial generation, claiming these younger employees are terrible workers. You can try to counter with a story about the amazing Millennial doing great work in your department, but the biased manager just returns with two more nightmare examples. He favors examples that confirm his bias – and that’s both dangerous and bad for business.
People often say, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” But the opposite is more often true: “I’ll see it when I believe it.”
If you don’t believe it, you won’t see it – and you’ll miss out on talented people at a time when it’s getting more difficult to recruit for jobs in manufacturing and trade. Park Industries sets a great example. They actively recruit people across generations because it’s good for business. And now they have positive stories to tell!
Suggestions for Overcoming Confirmation Bias
- Don’t trust your gut when it comes to business decisions. Affirming current beliefs comes naturally; challenging them takes self-discipline.
- Make a point to listen to multiple experts with differing points of view on a topic.
- If you have a strongly-held idea, ask yourself: “How would I know if I were wrong?” Then actively look for evidence that might challenge your ideas.
- Fake it til’ you make it. Yes, sometimes you just have to decide to change your beliefs.
Change my beliefs? Wait… what?
The Belief Cycle
Our beliefs color what we see and experience because we filter out information that doesn’t fit our beliefs.
Consider one example of the Belief Cycle depicted here.
- I believe that my salespeople are lazy.
- I don’t notice how they’re trying to learn more about the qualities of quartz vs. quartzite – I only see what they don’t know. But I’m certainly not going to invest in training or software – because I think they’re lazy.
- The salespeople will in turn come to believe that I don’t value their contribution or that I think they’re not capable of improving.
- They now believe they’re in dead-end jobs so they just get by doing the minimum – while they look for other work!
- When I see that behavior, it will reinforce my belief – and the cycle continues!
“It isn’t the past which holds us back, it’s the future; and how we undermine it, today.”
I love that quote from A Man’s Search for Meaning by Dr. Victor Frankl, an Austrian psychologist who survived the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz. He reminds me that if I’m not willing to believe that something is possible in the future, I might refuse to acknowledge the evidence and opportunities available to me today.
Is the future of your company limited by something you believe today?
Experiment with changing that belief before you see the evidence that change is possible. And then maybe when you believe, you’ll see the proof!