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We think that most people are objective and that, when presented with the right facts and evidence, they will be open to changing their minds.

Don’t you agree that if people are furnished with the facts, they will be clearer thinkers and better citizens? Well, I realized in working with organizational change that this notion is hardly true. In other words: Facts don’t necessarily have the power to change people’s minds or to activate their potential. Sometimes I think that —especially in some organizations—quite the opposite is true.

How do we defend ourselves and our organizations from the powerful human tendency to find comfort in information that we already know and not challenge it? How do we ensure that we are not victims of cognitive biases when we make decisions and agree on actions?

How do you prevent cognitive bias in your decision making to activate your potential?

  • Because facts are powerless unless they are articulated in a story that helps us with shared meaning, in my work I stay away from statistics and data and focus on the story of a person impacted by the issue.
  • To prevent cognitive biases, ensure that people are free to admit when they are wrong. Research shows that organizations where a culture of admitting mistakes is strong are less prone to cognitive bias. When people are free to change their mind and encouraged to do so, it’s easier for people to stop defending positions that are not confirmed by facts.
  • Use a variety of decision making tools to explore different options and celebrate disagreements as a healthy way to explore the fertile unknown. These kinds of conversations, called “inquiry on the edge”, can become part of your toolkit to improve the decision making capacity of your team. To learn more about how to conduct an “Inquiry on the edge” click here.

Which better decisions could your team accomplish if it were to get rid of cognitive biases?