By Bob Pothier (@Bob_Pothier), Director at Partners In Leadership
We all have an inordinate number of cognitive biases, or ways in which our brains function irrationally. As a result, we constantly make illogical decisions and even mistakes because we see a narrow slice of reality.
That's the basis of Daniel Kahneman's research in his book, "Thinking, Fast and Slow," and Michael Lewis' new book, "The Undoing Project," based on Dr. Kahneman's research relationship with Amos Tversky. It also supports many of the findings in the Partners in Leadership's comprehensive Workplace Accountability Study.
The problem is that we believe we see the world clearly, that our thinking and analysis is spot on. Then, when others disagree with our opinion, perspective, or decision, we believe the fault is in others and not our own observations and reasoning.
These thinking problems are compounded by living in our "filter bubble."
A filter bubble, coined by Eli Pariser, is a self-defense mechanism of surrounding ourselves with people and information sources that share our perspective of the world. For example, if your Facebook friends, LinkedIn contacts, news sources, and social circles all share the same opinions, you get trapped in a filter bubble where you are no longer exposed to information that could challenge or broaden your worldview.
Advanced strategic thinking arises when we acknowledge that no one sees the world perfectly. When we challenge our thinking, we can refine it, make more informed and better decisions, and influence a greater number of people. This starts with opening up to new perspectives, information, and points of view.
Here are four ways to find your blind spot and burst your filter bubble.
1. Follow people on social media who share a different opinion.
It became very common during the election to "un-friend" people who disagreed with our political view. We must do the opposite.
To broaden your perspective, surround yourself with different ideas and beliefs. Even more, try to understand the other side of the argument. This isn't meant to change your opinion as much as refine it. Your perspective becomes richer as you learn why others hold a counter view. Even if you don't agree, your ability to connect with and possibly influence others increases when you approach communication and differences with empathy.
2. Empathize with others.
An initial reaction to hearing something we disagree with is often to reject or challenge it. However, our ability to influence others is not based on the strength of our argument, but whether others believe we understand their perspective.
Each person you interact with comes preprogramed with a set of beliefs based on a variety of experiences and emotions; more often than not, how a person behaves is guided by these beliefs rather than by logic.
Before you react, ask yourself, "Why does this person hold this belief?" Approaching people from a place of empathy and willingness to understand why they think and act a certain way makes way for establishing common ground. After uncovering what you can agree about, each side can begin to influence the other, ultimately forging deeper understanding and insight.
3. Seek feedback from those with a different point of view.
As you're thinking through ideas, approaches, and changes in your organization, consider engaging people who have different experiences and backgrounds, and therefore, opinions. Test your thinking by explaining your approach to others and see how they respond.
Share your ideas with colleagues, those who report to you, and especially experts in the area. You don't lose an idea as you share it; you gain support, insight, and acceptance. Ask for what works and what can be improved. Be open to altering your ideas as you get feedback.
Great ideas are not always the best ideas or even the most revolutionary. Great ideas are often just the most popular. You can gain popularity for your ideas by asking for constructive feedback: people are much more likely to feel a sense of ownership and eventually a greater acceptance of your idea if you give them the opportunity to weigh in first.
4. Be open to refining your perspective and thinking.
Our egos keep us from investigating a variety of ideas or pivoting when we've encountered objections or obstacles. We think we look bad and may feel defensive because we were "wrong." The greatest thinkers in history have often been wrong.
Einstein took years to accept quantum mechanics despite all the evidence supporting it. Many of the signatories of the U.S. Declaration of Independence did not originally believe independence was the right approach. And Steve Jobs did not think the Pixar software was right for animation until John Lasseter convinced him otherwise.
Don't be blindsided by assumptions and biases. Changing your ideas, positions, or opinions does not make you wrong, it often makes you more right than you were before because they now include feedback, insights, adjustments, and flexibility that make them stronger and more readily acceptable.
Burst Your Bubble
Our filter bubbles isolate us and reinforce the poor thinking we're already doing. We increase our chances of coming up with the next great idea and influencing those around us by engaging other perspectives in our thinking process. Test your viewpoint by pinging it off others, especially those who may disagree with you. It's the only way to shatter that bubble and open you to a new frontier of better ideas and approaches.
Bob Pothier serves as a Director for Partners In Leadership and brings a wealth of experience that has helped clients create greater accountability and implement culture change initiatives.