August 5th, 2020
When Bias Is Deep, Innovation Is Shallow
We must “know ourselves” to be better people and better Innovators. During the current challenge, our focus must remain on innovation. Our economy has only seen 10% unemployment for a total of four months over the last 20 years, with one month in 2009 and three in 2020. But we will continue to innovate our way out of this challenge, and I note many new product announcements in the industry. Your team must keep pace with this innovation!
In my last blog (Innovation and Encouragement) I discussed how it is our thinking and unconscious bias that limits breakthroughs. We must be clear that our own thinking process is more of an innovation limiter than anything else. Bias is simply defined as: “a disproportionate weight in favor of or against an idea or thing, usually in a way that is closed-minded, prejudicial or unfair. Biases can be innate or learned. People may develop biases for or against an individual, a group, or a belief. In science and engineering, a bias is a systematic error.”
Our judgement of others and those that guide our decisions or views of any challenge are created through these biases. In the next few blogs, we will continue to discuss the main areas of focus. I reference ThinkingShop.org for its approach, and hope you will also.
We covered Anchoring Bias, Sunk Cost Fallacy Bias, and Confirmation Bias previously. Our focus for this blog is on Dunning Bias, Backfire Bias, Barnum Effect Bias and Declinism Bias.
The Dunning Bias
The Dunning Bias suggests that, “The less you know about something, the more confident you will be about it.” The world of innovation is complex. Your success requires you to completely understand the current process and design compromises that created something. In this way you can build on the previous design. If you don’t understand it fully, you will tend to emphasize this Dunning Bias and make poor decisions. Please don’t be overconfident early in the innovation process. As Bertrand Russel said, “The problem with the world is the fools and fanatics are so sure of themselves, and wiser people are so full of doubt.” For more info on this click here.
This form of bias states, “when your core beliefs are challenged it can cause you to believe in them more strongly.” We spend our lives building beliefs that may not be solid. If we strongly believe that the methods you use to add value are the best they can be, we are clearly going to lose the innovation race against a more reflective and open-minded competitor. The Backfire bias then doubles your disadvantage to this competitor by reinforcing your false belief. We all need to work hard to realize our core may need modifications! Mark Twain summed it up by saying, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you in trouble; it’s what you know for sure that ain’t so.” For more info click here.
Barnum Effect Bias
This one is pretty simple: “The human tendency to be overly impressed by vague statements.” Our minds are always searching for connections and patterns. This leads us to believe that some promotional efforts are specifically about us. This is the same bias that horoscopes use to make it seem that the general statements apply only to the individual. The realization that, “It’s not about you,” will serve you well here and allow you stay centered. When evaluating innovative proposals from consultants and vendors, be fully aware of how this bias can alter your acceptance. Bertram Forer has done extensive work to help us understand this bias, which you can find here.
This form of bias suggests, “you see the past as always better than the present.” Many of us are guilty of this, which is probably founded in some insecurity. The “glory days” of our past always seem in focus, while the other parts of history seem blurred. Please do not allow this thinking to affect your innovation. The greatest innovation is yet to come and the greatest innovator is yet to be identified! The current research findings on materials and machines are very encouraging. Please see Fenestration Innovation Network on LinkedIn for many new ideas for our industry and think better of the future!
We will continue our anti bias theme over the next few blogs since this is such an important subject. Please let me know of any examples of bias effecting innovation for inclusion.
Thanks! And: Keep innovating, keep safe and keep thinking!