Understanding How Bias Affects the Mediocrity Cycle by@wioota

Understanding How Bias Affects the Mediocrity Cycle

Humans are naturally predisposed to some attitudes and behaviours which can close us off from good choices. Some types of bias, in particular, I theorise weigh us towards action-oriented and short-term thinking. Certainty bias, our preference for absolute certainty when making decisions, can lead us towards options that seem more certain. Rush-to-solve bias, we have great faith in our own judgement, we tend to assume the best-case scenario when it comes to realising our plan.
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Daniel Walters

An experienced product development leader on how to engage teams with more clarity to achieve audacious goals.

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Humans are naturally predisposed to some attitudes and behaviors which can close us off from good choices.


Bias affects every decision we make. Some types of bias, in particular, I theorize weigh us towards action-oriented and short-term thinking, and away from outcome-oriented, long-term thinking.

Certainty bias, our preference for absolute certainty when making decisions, can lead us towards options that seem more certain. Actions, i.e. Tasks, Projects, Initiatives, and Programmes have a feeling of concreteness about them - definitive activities to undertake. That concreteness feels certain - we know what output in a short period of time results from these activities.


Action bias is our preference for action when compared to inaction. Some actions such as time getting clear on the problem or desired effect or outcome being sought are seen as inaction.


Rush-to-solve bias is likely a relative of action bias, we naturally prefer to act even without assessing all the data we have available to us.


Overconfidence bias, we have great faith in our own judgment so things we reckon such as the imagined set of steps to take to solve a presumed problem are activities we gravitate towards. Anchoring bias can then lock us into these steps.


In Planning fallacy we tend to assume the best-case scenario when it comes to realising our plan such as to presume a plan we make will work.


With these biases at play it’s a wonder we ever think in terms of outcomes at all! Naming and learning to see these behaviors in ourselves are a good step towards rebalancing the scales.

The weight of these biases is so significant there can be a compound effect over time. It is how I have come to reconcile how organizations can come to accept obviously bad situations and never find the path to correct them. For instance, it’s common to see organizations with crippling quality problems.


I write more about this compound effect in: Long term pace > short term pace


Crippling quality problems may exist and yet you will see these organizations rolling out a never-ending production line of features and further worsening the quality problem (and likely creating a usability problem, security problems, performance problems, and every other qualitative flaw in the process). Even when there are quality improvement programs introduced in these organizations they fail because they are after the fact and not responsive to whether the quality is improving at all.


What do you think of this hypothesis? Do you have any evidence that supports or contradicts this theory? Please share your experiences in the comments.


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