We all know about cognitive bias. But do any of us realize how many cognitive biases we succumb to? Wikipedia lists over 175 – and counting. It’s a wonder we can even function.
It is important that we, as innovators, be aware of our and others cognitive biases so that we can actively work to counter them to see the world as it is. Being forewarned is forearmed. Any tool that helps us do this is valuable and the author provides such a tool.
The author organizes all the known biases into a multi-level hierarchy that makes them much easier to comprehend and therefor counter them. The top level organization is into four main categories of problems our brain deals with.
Problem 1: Too Much Information.
There is just too much information in the world, we have no choice but to filter almost all of it out. Our brain uses a few simple tricks to pick out the bits of information that are most likely going to be useful in some way.
Problem 2: Not enough meaning.
The world is very confusing, and we end up only seeing a tiny sliver of it, but we need to make some sense of it. Once the reduced stream of information comes in, we connect the dots, fill in the gaps with stuff we already think we know, and update our mental models of the world.
Problem 3: Need to act fast.
We’re constrained by time and information, and yet we can’t let that paralyze us. With every piece of new information, we need to do our best to assess our ability to affect the situation, apply it to decisions, simulate the future to predict what might happen next, and otherwise act on our new insight.
Problem 4: What should we remember?
There’s too much information and we can only afford to keep around the bits that are most likely to prove useful in the future. We need to make constant bets and trade-offs around what we try to remember and what we forget. What we remember is what is most likely to inform our filters related to problem 1’s information overload, as well as inform what comes to mind during the processes mentioned in problem 2 around filling in incomplete information. It’s all self-reinforcing.
Just keeping these four problems top-of-mind in your day-to-day observations is a useful start. This is a very useful article and well worth a read – even the comments section holds some interesting discussion and new ideas.