GLOBAL: Cognitive biases can inhibit creativity and lead to poor choices, so “debiasing” of an organisation may make the difference between success and failure, according to two leading behavioural scientists.

In a WARC Best Practice paper, How to make organisations more innovative, open minded and critical in their thinking and judgment, Crawford Hollingworth and Liz Barker of The Behavioural Architects consultancy, offer strategies for recognising and minimising the biases that can lead to suboptimal thinking and decision making.

Among the nine common biases that can have detrimental consequences are groupthink, loss aversion, availability bias, normalcy bias, confirmation bias, optimism bias, overconfidence, anchoring and, last but not least, the bias blind spot.

Of this list, the author of one study noted that “everyone thinks that they are less biased than their peers. This susceptibility to the bias blind spot appears to be pervasive, and is unrelated to people’s intelligence, self-esteem, and actual ability to make unbiased judgments and decisions.”

An example of successful debiasing, say Hollingworth and Barker, comes from baseball, where the Moneyball book and film highlighted how the game shifted focus from subjective views on players’ abilities based on recent performances to objective analysis based on relevant statistics.

“Most behaviours and skills can be taught and learnt successfully,” they note. “Debiasing is no different. We simply need to develop a practical model and process that is effective and turn more deliberative thinking into a habit so it becomes second nature.”

This involves a three-pronged approach that first ensures a basic understanding of cognitive biases across the organisation to lay the groundwork before moving on to address how to debias solo decision-making on the one hand and group decision-making on the other.

Individuals, for example, should ask themselves why their initial decision might be wrong and consider the opposite – a practice that can reduce the effects of several different biases, including overconfidence, anchoring effects, confirmation bias and hindsight bias.

Groups can be primed to think critically in order to ensure minority views are heard which can stimulate divergent attention and thought.

“Creating structures and a working culture that still allow opposing viewpoints to be aired at any level is crucial to performance, simply to raise the quality of thought and analysis,” the authors say.

Sourced from WARC