Common Biases & Behaviours that can Derail your Strategy

I think of myself as an objective and rational person.

In reality like most people I’m biased.

Having biases is human. No one is above that.

Acknowledging and correcting them is also human.

It’s this act that makes us better people and better leaders.

Here are several ways in which your biases can influences your strategies.

Halo effect: Believing that our actions alone were responsible for our success while turning a blind eye to other external factors.

Anchoring: Inventing and sticking to arbitrary numbers or ideas without questioning the sense in pursuing them in the first place.

Confirmation bias: Believing that something will work based on your own or someone else’s past experiences without doing a reality check.

Loss aversion: Failing to recognise an opportunity for a greater future gain just to save yourself from short term loss or failure.

Survivor bias: Putting weight in success stories far more than learning lessons from failure.

Remember, most of us are biased most of the time.

“Even if we don’t like to acknowledge it, we are social creatures and covet status in the tribe. This was an excellent trait from an evolutionary perspective, but can be obstacle when developing good strategies. “

Strategy beyond the Hockey Stick

Most biases are subtle. Even if you were aware you might still think that it’s harmless or justified.

Authors of Strategy beyond the Hockey Stick argue that in social settings and especially when the stakes are high these biases, when left unchecked, can drive us towards less than ideal behaviour.

Such as:

Sandbagging: Intentionally stalling an idea or project that could benefit the whole organisation simply because the personal risk to you from failure is too high.

The Short Game: Compromising long-term success by sticking to gaining quick short-term personal gain. Another manifestation of playing the short game is doing only what’s necessary to get to you ahead while making the job challenging to those who will take your place.

My Way or Your Problems: Using your knowledge and expertise to coerce people into making decisions in your favour. The nasty side of this behaviour is sugar coating facts and withholding information to knowingly sabotage objective decision making.

I am my numbers: Single minded focus on achieving quantitative goals to ensure personal success even when they compromise long-term success.

The embracing of ignorance had to come before the embracing of knowledge.

Strategy beyond the Hockey Stick

Just as our experiences and environment shape our biases, we can also overcome them.

Creating an inclusive environment and encouraging debate can help you identify the biases at play and get past them.

Leaders who lack the ability to be self-critical often lead their organisations towards doom.

Don’t be that leader!