Overcoming Confirmation Bias: 3 Actionable Strategies for Better Team Performance
Confirmation bias is a natural tendency of the human mind to seek out information that confirms pre-existing beliefs and ignore information that contradicts them. This cognitive bias can have a significant impact on how we perceive information and make decisions, especially in a team environment where collective decision-making is required.
While confirmation bias may have some advantages, such as providing us with a sense of certainty and reducing cognitive dissonance, it can also lead to poor decision-making and negatively impact team performance.
To better understand confirmation bias, consider this analogy: imagine you are wearing a pair of glasses with tinted lenses that only allow you to see things that confirm your existing beliefs. Anything that contradicts those beliefs is filtered out and goes unnoticed. This is similar to how confirmation bias works, as it filters out information that contradicts our beliefs and reinforces our pre-existing opinions.
Now that we understand what confirmation bias is, let's dive into three ways it can impact team performance and how to counteract its negative effects.
Here are three ways confirmation bias can affect team performance, along with actionable steps to counteract its negative effects:
Confirmation bias can turn water cooler gossip into a negative spiral, leading to decreased morale among team members. When someone dislikes or is irritated with a coworker, they tend to point out qualities that annoy them. This negativity can spread quickly, impacting the morale of the entire team.
To counteract this, call out confirmation bias before it spreads. Be aware of it so you can identify it in real-time. If you overhear negative comments about a coworker, step in and challenge those comments. Managers should also be aware of their biases before conducting performance reviews. Put mechanisms in place for continuous feedback and coaching to provide a more holistic view of someone’s performance and work approach.
Non-inclusive hiring practices:
Being aware of confirmation bias is critical during the recruiting and hiring process. If you’re not careful, you can end up impacting your culture negatively by only hiring people who think like you. This can lead to limited decision-making and a negative impact on the ability to innovate and achieve desired outcomes.
To counteract this, make a concerted effort to hire people with different backgrounds so that diverse perspectives can be brought to the table. Diversity in the workplace not only improves performance but also improves morale.
Hurt strategic decisions:
Confirmation bias is fairly common in organizations with top-down hierarchies, and this can hurt strategic decisions. For example, if the CEO wants to go live with a new product or service, rounds of market research might be delegated to the product development team under the guise of evaluating the initiative’s feasibility. Teams conduct their research looking for positive signals in an effort to please their boss, leading to loaded market research survey questions and biased data analysis. Moving forward may seem like a foregone conclusion, but in reality, no proper research was carried out to determine market viability or demand.
To counteract this, remove biases from the questions asked in market research. Don’t give participants indications of your expectations. Make decisions based on facts and evidence. Bring in different viewpoints to help extract facts from subjective sentiment, and build a culture where debating because you value getting closer to the truth is encouraged. Ensure that alternative viewpoints are considered, especially those that differ from your own. Create a culture where dissent is encouraged in the workplace.
Confirmation bias is a natural tendency that can negatively impact team performance, hurt morale, and limit innovation. It is important to be aware of it and actively work to counteract its negative effects. By doing so, you can create a workplace culture that values diversity, encourages dissent, and makes decisions based on facts and evidence. If you need help removing bias in the workplace, Straightline Consulting Group, a certified Talent Optimization firm, can help you put the Talent Optimization framework in place at your business. Don't hesitate to take action and achieve success!