As an entrepreneur, making correct and fair decisions is key for the success of your organization, both in terms of how you serve your customers and how you treat your employees. But decisions are often marred by inherent bias, with potentially damaging consequences to your business if not kept in check. Additionally, letting personal preferences affect what should be an objective process, even unconsciously, can severely undermine an entrepreneur's image and authority in their own organization.
So how can a business owner identify their bias and start making truly impartial decisions for the benefit of their entire company? These six entrepreneurs offer their best advice.
1. Try to prove yourself wrong.
"When faced with an important decision, try to prove that your initial conclusion is wrong," ServerMania co-owner and CMO Justin Blanchard recommends. However, this sounds easier said than done because most people will actually find this very challenging.
"We instinctively look for evidence in our favor and arguments that support our position, but we can't see hidden flaws in our thinking unless we make a deliberate effort," Blanchard explains. "Take the time to look for evidence and arguments that show you're wrong."
2. Talk to someone you trust to challenge you.
If finding arguments against yourself is too difficult, enlist the help of someone else, preferably a person you trust and whose advice and recommendations you are likely to heed.
"Talking to someone you trust to challenge your blind spots can help you make better decisions," Northcutt CEO Corey Northcutt argues. "It's impossible to overestimate the value of having a mentor, adviser, or co-founder who has the same goals as you, but a different approach, style of thinking, or life experiences."
3. Don't consult others before yourself.
On the other hand, going to other people for advice before consulting yourself may end up affecting your decision negatively or even making you more biased, Formidable Forms founder Stephanie Wells thinks: "To make less biased decisions, you need to stop consulting others and asking for their opinions first."
Asking others what they think can lead to a so-called "bandwagon effect," where the likelihood of one person adopting a belief depends on the number of people who have that belief, Wells explains. "Instead, form your opinion first, and then consult with others to make a less biased decision."
4. Review and reference mental models.
Chelsea Rivera, co-founder of Honest Paws, believes that learning and becoming familiar with different mental models can also play an important part in an entrepreneur's drive to eliminate unconscious bias.
"When you are able to think through a decision using different mental models, you will overcome bias and ultimately make better decisions," Rivera insists. Those interested in trying this method can start by reading more about mental models in the book Super Thinking or the dedicated blog Farnam Street.
5. Put your emotions aside.
A good way to identify facts and eliminate bias is to take emotion out of the equation by creating a clear decision matrix that weighs possible options against your decision needs, United Capital Source CEO Jared Weitz believes.
"This works not only for making decisions about a design feature, but also for hiring an employee. Doing it this way forces you to place a numerical value on needs and inputs that will drive a decision forward without allowing emotions to weigh in," Weitz explains of the process.
6. Distinguish between fact and assumption.
"Are your biases based on things you know or things you feel or have wrongly assumed?" This is, perhaps, one of the most important questions entrepreneurs should ask themselves when faced with a potentially biased decision, thinks Sam Saxton, president of Paragon Stairs.
To address this conundrum, entrepreneurs need to get better at distinguishing between facts and assumptions and learn how to base their decisions on the former. "Take the time to reflect and figure out exactly what you're afraid of and why. Often, you'll realize your biases have no grounds, and that things aren't as dire as you thought they were," Saxton adds.