Decision Making Bias is Like Riding a Bike

I learned to ride a bike when I was five.  It wasn’t authorized, but I “borrowed” my sister’s cherished stingray model complete with a banana seat and pastel-colored handle bar tassels.  I maneuvered the bike to the curb, put my feet in the pedals, shoved off…

And crashed.

I must have fallen a hundred times until it finally clicked.  But once it did, I was as cool as my big sister – or could have been if not for the daisy bedecked sprocket cover and the aforementioned tassels.  Ever since that day, there hasn’t been a single bike I couldn’t ride.

Until now.

Engineers at Smarter Every Day  have created a “backwards bike” – a regular bike that turns left when you pull the handlebars right, and right when you pull the handlebars left.  On the surface, it sounds like a relatively simple concept to master, but by watching this fascinating video, I gained a new appreciation for the limitations of my brain. 

There are some important lessons here, especially for organizational leaders who are dealing with changes in their environment that may or may not require them to shift their way of doing business. 

  1. Own Your Bias – It is impossible to have a completely “unbiased opinion” when making decisions.  No matter the situation, your experience subconsciously impacts your actions.  Rather than hide your bias, openly share how your experience is influencing your decision making, and invite others to do the same.
  2. Be Intentional – Leaders often achieve success by becoming experts in a particular way of thinking – to the point where their bias becomes unconscious.  Unfortunately, when business conditions change, a mindset shift may be necessary.  As painful as it sounds, this requires explicitly stating how your thinking must change, developing a new process, and applying conscious effort over time.
  3. Practice Makes Permanent – Much like the backwards bike, leaders can eventually master a new mindset to the point where it becomes second nature.  This requires regular practice without backsliding into the old way of thinking.  Once mastered, leaders can flex back and forth by applying focused effort.  And patience.

At Action Management, we have been helping clients challenge their old way of thinking for nearly forty years. If you would like to explore some new ways of solving problems, making decisions, and implementing critical projects, just give us a call at 800-386-5611.  We would love to help!






















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