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Are Leaders Susceptible to Cognitive Biases?

If you're a leader who has caught our last article on how cognitive biases affect team members in change, here is another one for you. Your team members aren't the only ones who are susceptible to cognitive biases - you are too.

For leaders rolling out change initiatives in your organization, these are the cognitive biases that you are prone to experiencing:

1. IKEA effect

The IKEA effect is a bias named after the famous Swedish furniture company that most of us visit, IKEA. This is when consumers place disproportionately high value on the products that they partially created, such as when a customer puts together their own furniture out of the flatpack delivered by IKEA. In more general terms, we place higher value on things that we have a hand in.

For leaders who create policies in change initiatives, the bias sets in. The initiatives may not be the best, but because they took part in creating it, they feel like its the best. This bias reminds us that we have to be objective in evaluating the efficiency and usefulness of the change initiatives rolled out, and consider the possibility of revising it when need be instead of stubbornly insisting that it's the right way to go.

2. Curse of knowledge

The curse of knowledge bias takes place when people know something, and assume that everyone else knows it too. For example, a brilliant professor may have difficulty teaching students because they no longer remember the difficulties that they themselves faced when they were learning the subject.

In the same way, leaders who have a lot of information about the change initiative may fail to inform the rest of the organization about the reasons as to why the change is taking place, or provide information about how the change initiatives can benefit the organization. Leaders might not be withholding the information out of ill-intention. Instead, it may be that they may be under the influence of this bias. Hence, it is crucial that you, as a leader, clearly disseminate the necessary information to everyone.

3. False consensus

The bias of false consensus arises when people believe more people agree with them than is actually the case. This bias leads to the perception of a consensus that does not exist. For example, a student who frequently procrastinates his work would believe that a majority of students also procrastinate their work when in reality, the majority do not.

Leaders may fall into this bias in that they could be under the false impression that team members are onboard with the change initiatives, when in fact, the majority of the team is strongly against the change. Due to this bias, it is important for leaders to have frequent, honest communication with the team and constantly check-in on the opinions and well-being of the team.

We hope you can put into use these cognitive biases that have been introduced to you, by identifying symptoms of these in your team and tackling the issues in the appropriate manners!


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