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Cognitive Bias is an Innovation Killer

Posted by

Steve Graham

5 May, 2019

I recently wrote about Cognitive Diversity, and today I reflect on Cognitive Bias, the other side of the same coin. I think (subconsciously biased) therefore I am (subconsciously biased). Psychologists generally agree that 90% of our decision making is driven by the subconscious. In other words, only 10% of the time are we actively (consciously) making decisions.

The subconscious mind does not have the ability to challenge what it is told. If one provides the wrong data and information, the subconscious will accept this as true. More concerning, is that regardless of whether or not the information is true, the subconscious will go to work to find and or create the evidence to make it acceptable.

When I read Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink I become fascinated with the Project Implicit test This test revealed hidden biases and an implicit social cognition - thoughts and feelings outside of conscious awareness and control.

We are prone to over 100 cognitive biases that may subconsciously shape our perceptions, beliefs and decisions. In Steve Glavesky’s post, 36 Cognitive Biases that Inhibit Innovation, he’s unpacked the cognitive biases that can stifle our innovation efforts, and how they might apply to the field and a proposed solution or mitigant for each.

We live in an era of rapid change and wonderful diversity. Sticking to outdated and unchallenged biases will only hinder our ability to adapt and consequently decrease our capability to innovate. If one accepts the words of Joseph Campbell, ‘He who thinks he knows doesn’t know. He who knows that he doesn’t know, knows,’ then we quickly realise how important and liberating, ‘not knowing’ becomes.

Although ‘not knowing’ may sound counter-intuitive, in the modern post-truth political era it may be advantageous to start from a clean slate, collecting cognitively diverse perspectives, explicitly challenging the cognitive biases we know exist.

An author enumerated the 17 cognitive biases that explain Brexit. The first one isTribal Epistemology - Information evaluated based not on conformity to common standards of evidence or correspondence to a common understanding of the world, but on whether it supports the tribe’s values and goals and is vouchsafed by tribal leaders.

In many ways this is how we drive corporate innovation programmes. We look to the executive team (e.g. our tribe’s values and goals vouchsafed by tribal leaders.) and then determine whether or not the concept has merit. Undoubtedly many executive team members bring insight and perspective, however the questions remain, who wouldn’t be open to have deeply entrenched cognitive biases exposed?

Cognitive biases are slowing us down and are detrimental in era where speed is imperative.




Steve Graham

Founder/Director HunchBuzz
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