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  • Writer's pictureEli

The Power of Clear Thinking: Navigating Cognitive Biases at Work

Every single day, our choices shape the outcomes we achieve, influencing the success of our teams, projects, and careers. Yet, as humans, we have a natural tendency to think in ways that can deviate from rational judgement.

These tendencies stem from:
We often deviate from rational judgment due to shortcuts in processing information, leading to decisions based on simplified or biased information. The limitations of our brain's processing abilities, such as a limited attention span or cognitive overload, can hinder our ability to handle the vast amount of information we encounter. Consequently, we may selectively focus on certain aspects and fail to fully remember or process everything. Additionally, our strong emotional attachment or moral motivation towards a specific outcome can either cloud our judgment or guide us towards choices aligned with our sense of right and wrong, influencing decision-making. It's important to recognize that our memories are not always accurate representations of past events, as they can be influenced by factors like current beliefs, emotions, and external influences. This can lead to the alteration of details, exaggeration of facts, or filling gaps with assumptions. Moreover, our choices can be shaped by the presence or opinions of others, which can result in conformity or group thinking. Consider these real-life examples of cognitive biases in the workplace:
  • Shortcut Bias: In a team meeting, the manager asks for input regarding a new project proposal. John quickly jumps to a conclusion based on his prior experience with a similar project. Without considering all the relevant details and perspectives, he dismisses the proposal, assuming it will lead to the same issues encountered in the past.

  • Brain Limitation and Cognitive Overload: During a high-pressure meeting Sarah struggles to absorb and process all the information presented. Her attention span becomes limited and she ends up missing crucial details. Due to oversimplification of the data, she offers incorrect suggestions to the project. This hampers her results and diminishes her engagement.

  • Emotional or Moral Motivation: Mark strongly opposes a decision to use a certain vendor for an important component. Although the vendor offers the most cost-effective and reliable solution, Mark's strong emotional attachment to supporting local businesses and his personal values of sustainability influence his judgement. This creates tension within the team, delays the decision-making process, and potentially jeopardizes the project's success, leaving Mark feeling demotivated.

  • Memory Bias and Retrieval: During a project retrospective David recalls a previous client interaction. However, as time passes, his memory of the incident becomes distorted, leading him to exaggerate the client's dissatisfaction. This skewed recollection impacts the team's perception of their performance, causing them to doubt their abilities and lose confidence in their work.

  • Social Influence: During a brainstorming session, the team quickly adopts the team leader's idea, suppressing individual reservations. This conformity restricts diverse thinking, hindering innovative ideas and leading to suboptimal decisions. As a consequence, the team's success may be compromised, missing out on valuable insights and opportunities for growth.

These are just a few examples of how cognitive biases can impact our work environment. We can tackle them by seeking diverse perspectives and relevant details to address shortcut bias, providing support and promoting effective listening for brain limitation and cognitive overload, fostering open dialogue and emphasizing objective evaluation to tackle emotional or moral motivation, documenting experiences and using reliable sources to mitigate memory bias, and promoting independent thinking and constructive dissent to address social influence.

Falling into the trap of cognitive biases is not uncommon. However, what truly matters is our awareness and willingness to break free from distorted thinking patterns by learning how to identify them in the first place. To ensure personal and collective growth, it is crucial for you, your colleagues, and your team to become familiar with recognizing cognitive distortions. By identifying these biases and learning how to reframe our thoughts, we can align them with objective reality. This empowers us to make informed, future-oriented decisions that drive success at work and in our personal lives. Explore our collection of articles on cognitive biases to become a more mindful thinker and equip yourself and your team with the knowledge and tools to navigate biases and enhance decision-making skills. Consult our offer and learn more about our workshops and lectures that can help you and your team recognize cognitive distortions and reframe your thoughts effectively.

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