Workplace Cognitive Biases

The first blog we wrote about workplace biases introduced some of the cognitive biases that are commonly found within workplaces and how market research can help identify and counteract such biases. This week’s blog continues with the theme and will introduce four more commonly held cognitive biases in the workplace.  As illustrated in the first blog, if these various cognitive biases go un-checked, the best-laid plans for developing and marketing products can get easily derailed.

No human is immune to cognitive biases, but this doesn’t mean we are powerless. As we discussed last week, the best market research outcomes happen when the researchers have a solid understanding and training in psychology. When qualitative market research studies are carried out by trained professionals, business teams can learn a lot about their customers AND themselves.

Cognitive bias in the workplace #3: Hot-Hand Fallacy

This particular bias is more common within established teams or organizations. It’s the idea that past success predicts future success. It’s not uncommon for individuals or team leaders to look at past projects and attribute the successful outcomes to key-decision or execution points, rather than luck. This particular fallacy is what plagues gamblers. Flipping a coin is always a 50/50 chance of heads or tails, but when the flipper has seen a succession of one side of the coin, it’s easy to think that the next flip will have a higher chance displaying the other side of the coin.

How market research helps: Researchers can create studies to identify and assess the assumptions teams are making when developing a new product. It becomes very clear, very quickly when a team is blinded by the hot-hand fallacy and feeling smug about the assured success of a yet-to-be tested product or idea. If it’s discovered that this bias has influenced a team, or individuals, there are a number of proven steps that can be taken to reassess the probability of success.

Cognitive bias in the workplace #4: Confirmation Bias

 While many people are aware of the blind-spots that confirmation bias can create, few people know how to overcome it. What makes confirmation bias so hard to tackle is a person must go against all his/her preconceived notions and carve out possible new ways of thinking. This is no easy task! Confirmation bias within the workplace can be especially troublesome because individuals or teams seek out information that they want to hear and believe, rather than what they don’t. Time and again we’ve seen examples of companies that will confirm their biases by believing anecdotes rather than research.

How market research helps: Qualitative studies cut to the chase and will quickly identify how customers or target audiences perceive a product or idea. Sometimes the findings confirm a hunch, but many times it’s discovered that what customers want is different than what the company thinks they want. Qualitative studies are great at exposing the disconnect between customer and company, but ultimately, it’s up to the company to shift gears.

Cognitive bias in the workplace #5: Pro-Innovation Bias

 Pro-innovation bias is a sneaky one. When a person or team believes that whatever new or innovative idea is being proposed needs to be universally accepted, it tramples over differing experiences or opinions. A lot of conversation has happened over the past few years about institutionalized racism and sexism, and pro-innovation biases play directly into this.

How market research helps: Focus groups and in-depth interviews can expose the experiences of those who feel left behind. Identifying pro-innovation bias and nipping it in the bud goes a long ways to preserving teams and keeping turn-over to a minimum.

Cognitive bias in the workplace #6: Status-Quo Bias

Another type of bias that plagues legacy brands over start-ups is the status-quo bias. When this bias is at work you’ll find that people resist change and work to keep the status quo going rather than being open to change. We all know that maxim, ‘Change is Difficult’ and this bias reflects this.

How market research helps: A well-designed qualitative study can root out when teams are being held back by clinging to the status quo. When you hear employees say, ‘That’s not the way we do things here,’ you know it’s time to conduct a market-research study to figure out how pervasive this line of thinking is throughout your organization.

To learn more about how we can help you identify if your organization is being held back by biases, Request A Proposal today!