Measure Twice. Ask a Few Questions. Measure Again. Cut Once.

“The correct solution to any problem depends principally on a true understanding of what the problem is.” Arthur Mellen Wellington

Have you ever seen people rallying around a solution, putting money and other resources towards building that solutions, only to eventually see that solution as an amazing non-solution? I have.

Confirmation bias: a tendency to search for or interpret new information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions and avoids information and interpretations which contradict prior beliefs.

Lots of interesting words, but what does it all mean? It means:

o        We think we understand the problem.

o        We think we have the answer(s) even though we may not fully understand the problem.

o        We will find information to support our understanding and ignore information that doesn’t support our line of thinking.

o        We may dig in our heels to support our point of view, ignoring new, factual information for any number of reasons (pride, not liking the message deliverer, not having the time to explore alternatives).

Pay attention to your confirmation biases the next time you are looking for the best solution to a problem. These biases are there – your challenge is to bring them to light. Your opportunity is the creation of spot on solutions. Ah – a win-win for all.

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Sandra Schwan

Sandra Schwan

Managing Partner at Evolving Strategies LLC
Sandra is the Managing Partner of Evolving Strategies LLC, a consulting firm helping companies and people learn, adapt and perform. Sandra holds a Master of Science degree in Adult Learning and Strategic Organizational Change from Northwestern University’s School of Education and Social Policy, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Arkansas. Previous employers include the Corporate Executive Board, Lante Corporation, Kensington International, and Accenture where Sandra was awarded mentor of the year.

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  1. Great post Sandy. Real objectivity is truly difficult. Takes a lot of honesty and willingness to hear what you don’t necessarily want to hear. And even more important when you’re spending someone else’s money.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Jeff. It is difficult. Just attended a conference on non-violent communication, and an interesting technique offered to increase objectivity was the ‘video camera’ technique. More on that soon!

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