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The Dangers of confirmation bias in a business and how to avoid it?

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Confirmation bias is the tendency to seek, interpret, favor, and remember data in a way that confirms one’s pre-existing beliefs. People display this bias by selecting information that confirms their beliefs while ignoring evidences that challenges those beliefs or by perceiving ambiguous data as confirming their pre-existing beliefs.

Confirmation bias is a phenomenon that explains why two people with opposing viewpoints on the same issue could both see the same piece of information and feel vindicated about it. This cognitive bias is more pronounced for strongly held, ideologically driven, or emotionally charged ideas.

Understanding confirmation bias is crucial as it affects people’s judgement and decision-making in many facets of life.

Confirmation bias seriously impairs the decision-making process and endangers the entire business by ignoring scientific data in favour of long-held beliefs that lack any supporting evidence. A confirmation bias encourages several harmful ways of thinking, like the propensity for people to overlook data that is at odds with their worldview. It accomplishes this through a variety of skewed cognitive processes.

Why do people Succumb to Confirmation Bias:

One reason humans are susceptible to confirmation bias is that it is an efficient mode of information processing.

There is a constant flow of information, making it impossible for people to evaluate each piece and form a logical conclusion. In that case, one must not have enough time to evaluate the data. As people can only comprehend information from their own perspective, they make biassed decisions and process information accordingly.

People must swiftly assimilate knowledge to protect themselves from making a decision based on wrong conclusions. Inductive reasoning-based scientific research is subject to systematic errors because of confirmation bias (the gradual accumulation of supportive evidence). Similarly, a police investigator may make a suspect identification early in an investigation but may then solely look for confirming rather than contradictory evidence.

Cognitive Bias in Business Decisions: The business decision-maker in the company‌ succumbs to the cognitive bias by believing that only a set of people are good and others are bad with no concrete evidence. Based on such an opinion, they delegate most of the critical work to people based on one’s impression rather than the validated facts, proven by scientific data.

Evaluating data is difficult, especially when it is difficult or ambiguous. Our minds prefer shortcuts. As a result, we can decide faster, especially when under pressure. Business owners make survival-based decisions. We now continually receive new information that makes our decision-making difficult. We have a natural desire to take short paths to avoid difficulties.

Based on shortcuts, when such delegation happens, both efficiency and efficacy get impacted adversely, hampering the growth of the organisation.

Let’s see one cognitive bias of hiring believing that left-handed people are more intelligent. He/She would ask only those questions to the interviewing candidate supporting his belief and therefore overlook the credentials of the data that is needed to perform a job. This impacts the company by selecting the right candidate. If all goes well, they then ask the applicant to provide references multiplying the adverse impacts.

Likewise, many incorrect decisions are made based on age, qualification, looks, and communication.

We often struggle to overcome confirmation bias in our personal and professional lives. Nobody wants to acknowledge they are mistaken; instead, they search for evidence to support the course of action they are taking.

What is the solution then?

Here are some points that can mitigate poor decision-making based on confirmation Bias.

Sanitise Recruitment and training process: Prepare trainers and hiring managers for counter-arguments, sanitise recruitment based on the job requirements and avoid cognitive bias in hiring.

Use Multiple Sources of Information: One should try to find the common link between multiple sources of information, rather than relying on one source of information that can weaken our comprehension.

Seek contrary opinion: Seek contrary opinion, even when those opinions seem to be uncomfortable. Read between the lines to form a final opinion.

Respect Dissent: Last but not least is to respect dissent by allowing counter opinions and suggestions. Provide access to an open-door policy allowing concrete suggestions and ideas to grow.

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