I THINK I AM RIGHT
A simple experiment uncovers this challenge every time.
Set an almost impossible problem scenario and then set your leaders up to fail. To do this, you have them answer the scenario alone. This builds the first barrier, ” I think my answers are right or almost right.” This psychological pneumonia studied and explained skillfully by Daniel Kahneman, in his work, highlights the struggle we all have separating intuition from logic.
Barrier one is created by the assumption that our intuitive answer is correct.
In my experiment, I then help leaders build barrier number two; confirmation. Working with one or two others I ask them to share their answers and agree on the new right answer. This kicks-off a process of trading, logical arguments, made up facts, and some coercion. This small group has now reinforced that they are “mostly right”.
Because the intuitive part of your mind is a lot more powerful than you may think, we quickly defend our assertions and develop “Logic” to support them – in the blink of an eye.
In his book How we know what isn’t so, Thomas Gilovich walks us through the process we use to reinforce our assumptions and biases and he shares strategies to overcome this natural way of thinking.
In my experiment, it only takes two steps and about 30 minutes to create factions. When the smaller groups are asked to work in a larger team to come up with the right solution they spend almost all of their energy trying to convince the other side that their answers are right and little energy exploring possibilities.
When one person within the group is the actual leader, i.e. the senior ranking officer, they often use positional power to force a conclusion, which, in many cases, resembles their first answer. They will then create the logic to support their actions and not waste time on reflecting on what just happened.
Most of us like to think we are not that kind of leader. That we are capable of making rational decisions, listening to other’s views and taking them onboard. The fact is we rely on our gut instinct and then create the logic to support this. Not always a bad thing.
However, left unchecked it can create an enormous blind spot that blocks out the intellect and innovations that only teams can generate. When we hold that our beliefs, judgements and opinions are based on solid reasoning we put ourselves and our organisations in peril.
It’s time to think again.
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Good reads are:
Prof Daniel Kahneman, from Princeton University, started a revolution in our understanding of the human mind. It’s a revolution that led to him winning a Nobel Prize.
His research focuses on everyday human judgment: How do people assess what they and others are like, what the future has in store, and what events in the past “really mean”?