As humans, we all have biases. We’d like to think we’re all perfectly logical all the time, but the reality is that we have moments when we aren’t thinking clearly and we make faulty decisions. Cognitive biases cloud our thinking because we stick with what we think we know.
One of the cognitive biases that can derail your startup plans is confirmation bias. Before you let it take up too much of your headspace, here’s what you need to know.
What is Confirmation Bias?
This cognitive bias plays to your need to be right. Rather than looking at information with an open mind, you instead start from a place where you already know the answer. You purposely look for — and focus on — information that supports your bias. If something challenges your view, you disregard it, insisting that the new information is somehow wrong or faulty because you’ve cherry-picked a bunch of other “evidence.”
The problem with confirmation bias rests on the fact that you might be wrong. We can’t be right all the time. However, when you think you know the answer, and so only consider items that support you, it doesn’t leave you room to correct course. Your startup plans could be derailed because you don’t realize you’ve made a mistake.
We all know that failure is part of the process and that eventually, you’ll be wrong. However, you don’t want to make a bunch of mistakes because of confirmation bias. At some point, you’ll make too many mistakes because you haven’t learned from past problems. Getting beyond confirmation bias is vital if you want to learn from failure and move toward success.
How to Get Past Confirmation Bias
To keep your startup plans intact, you need to get past your confirmation bias. It’s not easy to move past it, but you can.
First, you need to acknowledge that you might not always be right. We like being right, and don’t like to admit we’re wrong. However, being wrong isn’t a weakness. We all make mistakes! Being wrong is only a weakness if we don’t admit when we’re wrong and learn from our failures. So start by knowing that you might be wrong.
Develop emotional intelligence. When you work on developing your emotional intelligence, you learn how to recognize when you’re letting your desire to be right cloud your judgment. Get to know yourself so you realize when confirmation bias is creeping in and threatening your startup plans.
Once you’ve done those things, you can then look at a situation with an open mind. Approach a problem with a desire to learn, rather than a desire to prove your point. Don’t assume you already know what needs to be done. Get used to asking others for their thoughts, and get used to consuming new information.
I like to look at things from a point of view different to mine on occasion — even when it has nothing to do with business. Getting in the habit of entertaining ideas at odds with your way of thinking and trying to see things from someone else’s point of view can help you understand that you might not have all the answers.
Once you get past confirmation bias and keep an open mind about your prospects, you’ll be in a better position to execute your startup plans and succeed.
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