In the first of the series, I shared my two favorite decision-making frameworks, Cynefin for deciding what type of decision you are making and WRAP to walk through a process to make an optimal decision. This is the fourth in the series and second on WRAP – Reality Test your Assumptions.
To reality test our assumptions, we must assess our options. One key impediment to seeing clearly is what neuroscience calls confirmation bias. This bias leads us to collect skewed, self-serving information. To combat this bias, we can ask disconfirming questions (e.g., What problems does our product/service have? or, What holes do we have in our strategy? or What is our biggest barrier to success?). We can spark constructive disagreement and, whenever appropriate, we should “ooch” – conduct small experiments to teach us more. Why predict when you can know?
To support the concepts around a reality test, the following content is from the book, Decisive.
REALITY-TEST YOUR ASSUMPTIONS
The mission: To fight the confirmation bias and ensure that, when you are assessing your options, you are gathering information that you can trust.
Core Ideas: The most important tools to keep in mind
- Fight the confirmation bias.
- Spark constructive disagreement.
- Ask disconfirming questions.
- Consider the opposite.
- Make a deliberate mistake.
- Zoom out: Respect the base rates.
- Zoom in: Take a close-up.
Here are three of the aforementioned in a little more detail.
Ask disconfirming questions. When you ask for advice on your decisions, don’t just ask people “What do you think?” or “Do you like my idea?” Ask disconfirming questions: “What’s the biggest obstacle you see to what I’m trying to do?” “If I failed, why do you think it would be?”. The key is to try to prove the decision wrong. If you are unable to, you may be onto something and you avoid confirmation bias where we see what we want to see and disregard the rest.
Spark constructive disagreement. Can you find someone you trust who will disagree with you? In her study of Silicon Valley firms, Kathy Eisenhardt found that the CEOs who made the quickest, most effective strategic decisions had a senior counselor. The counselor was usually someone who knew the industry well but didn’t have a personal agenda, which meant they could provide unvarnished, trustworthy guidance.
Ooch. Can you get yourself to “ooch” by lowering the barriers? Imagine that you could take a half-day to do something to assess one of your options. (Not talk about it, not think about it, not agonize about it – do something about it.) What could you do? If you had $100 to spend to aid your assessment, how would you spend it? This lines up with Jim Collins’ approach of shooting bullets first and then cannonballs. Another example is to offer your time for free to a company that you think you want to work for.
The key is to fight over confidence or hubris when making critical decisions. We are human and are all susceptible to cognitive biases such as confirmation bias, availability bias, status quo bias among many others. Research proves that even if you are aware of these biases you still commit them! This is because the brain is always looking for shortcuts to save energy and it does so without our conscious awareness.
Do a reality check every now and again will help you to build the muscles to avoid or mitigate making poorly thought out decisions.
Next up, Attain some distance…
Bill – Certified Growth Coach
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