Decisive book club – part 2 of 5

Welcome back, we are diving into the next bias in the decision making process that Chip and Dan Heath cover in their fabulous book Decisive.  We cover each of these areas as it helps us become better people, better product managers and better advisors to our peers.  To review the first post check out Part 1.

Confirmation bias is a terrible villain and one that is quite difficult to avoid. When listening to feedback in an user review session we are psychologically primed to only hear the positive comments rather than anything that does not affirm what we already believe to be true. This is why user testing and research studies suggest pairing when performing these activities. One of our attendees also made the suggestion to deliberately seek out a colleague to review what you are working on, to help you counter your own bias.

The idea of building prototypes, and smaller iterations in development (using Agile or other methods) to get the idea tested early is one that resonates well amongst a product management group. The word Ooch was the terminology the Heath brothers had picked up from an entrepreneur who had had success validating an idea before scaling up. I like the word myself and reading through some of the examples in the book it reminded me there are other ways to reality test your assumptions than only those I knew of from an agile approach. I think that is useful to remember because once you have gotten a development team up and running and your in motion it can be hard to change course if any new information comes up to suggest the project or product you are working on is not a good one to continue with. In some ways, it creates another form or confirmation bias where you continue the path you are on despite all other warnings to the contrary. Kodak would be a good example of this, where when they first reviewed the market, digital cameras were not taking off.  However, they needed to add a trigger or tripwire to let them know that it was time to review that point of view.  We will talk about triggers in a later post.

There were many great tools in this part of the book that are helpful not just for decision making, but also innovation and idea creation in your role as a product manager (or any other role where you build things).  Such tools include learning from experts (this was also covered in the IDEO HCD course as a key step), “ladder up” from the problem, see if you can find an analogous or totally other way to solve the problem in front of you (again an IDEO HCD step to reality test ideas), essentially see what others have done when solving the same problem and if the option they chose succeeded.  This will help you make a better decision, and if you still follow the same path, help plan for any of the obstacles you have now learnt about.

Other ideas or ways to Reality test your assumptions and help counteract your Confirmation bias are listed below:

  • actual attempt to make a mistake (a great way to challenge assumptions)
  • go for an outside or expert view but avoid prediction questions. have an expert remark on baselines, and talk about what they know. ALL people are terrible predictors of the future.
  • close ups are useful to colour the averages, the data and the overview
  • be a user yourself, to gain “expertise” and see it that close up (Bounty example, which is a paper towel product, where they used the competitor product in house, and removed confirmation bias of their own product. All scientific comparisons showed they were the better product but until they put competitor product in house, and had everyone from marketing to development using it for themselves)
  • Ooch! before leaping – test and learn

Don’t trust my posts on this book, get it yourself, there is so much valuable insight within: Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work by the Heath brothers.

The next blog post will be about the villain Short term emotions and how to counteract them with Attain distance before deciding.

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