Thirdly, you need to become aware that your decision making and selection criteria can and are being affected by your sub-conscious biases. Followed by understanding that your biases may be keeping you within irrational judgment and your existing frames of reference. To break this you need to think about the way you and your team are thinking and to challenge each other. This takes continuous practice and time like any new skill. The brain has high-plasticity though with the ability to change continually throughout life.
Although there is no magic bullet solution to prevent us from being affected by our own cognitive biases, it is possible to minimize their effects as mentioned, by consciously understanding and spotting key moments in which they operate. This results in minimizing their influence and allowing increased likelihood for objective (logical and creative) reasoning for decision making to take place.
It requires disciplined practice, but over time you will become more and more aware of your own perceptual habits that trigger your biases, and more critically you will be able to identify them in others. It is about challenging your instincts versus more rational thinking and having the assertiveness to speak-up.
Here some solutions you can experiment.
- Master lateral thinking methods. The good news is there are a vast number of innovation tools available to challenge our biases through lateral thinking methods. For example: Opposite Thinking, Analogy Thinking, Six Thinking Hats, Brain Writing to name just a few. Including one of the many good reasons for using post-its in workshops because they flatten hierarchy (authority bias). These are designed to break our biases intentionally and consciously by restricting our instinctive mental shortcuts so we can pursue more creative ideas and ultimately more innovative outcomes. The result is allowing us to diverge free associative thinking, devoid of biases, in a structured way to come-up with large numbers of ideas in order trigger more creative ideas and concepts to feed into the innovation pipeline.
- Pay particular attention during tiring sessions (e.g. fuzzy front-end). After generating vast numbers of ideas on post-its to refine and develop, the challenge is then to assess and select the suitability of final ideas to pursue. Cognitive biases are sneaky culprits and can play a key influencing role here as well. It is vital to understand their impacts during the fuzzy front-end of the innovation process such as after intensive ideation rounds or towards the end of workshops when team fatigue can start to kick-in amplifies bias effects.
- Ask external facilitators. The common problem with all cognitive biases is that they are subconscious and instinctive behaviors. Of course, having trained and skilled facilitators from outside your industry and team is key in identifying biases in action and they will actively challenge participants’ way of thinking. If needed, hire an innovation facilitator.
Check, now we are aware (and can understand how they are influencing us), we can choose to interject consciously and challenge ourselves and others to break them in order to make better decisions for innovation outcomes.