Category: Human Beings

Information vs Affirmation (& how to distinguish between the two)

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Time to Read: 3 mins
 
A cognitive bias describes a pattern of thinking that deviates from logical and sound reasoning.
 
While completing my degree in 2014, I still remember spending an entire class (3hrs) looking at the cognitive biases and how they effect organisations, management and decision making. It was the first time I had ever come across cognitive biases and I found the topic to be fascinating.  I started to reflect on my past decisions and wondered how much of my thinking was influenced by cognitive biases.
 
 
 
Examples
Cognitive biases was popularised by Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman; they dispelled the belief that in business, humans made decisions based on evidence and logic. For their works they Kahneman (illustrated above) was awarded a Nobel prize in 2002.
 
Here are just two of the example to keep in mind as you continue to read:
 
  • Confirmation Bias:  The tendency to find information that only supports or confirms our point of view. And
  • Ingroup Bias: The tendency to to favour those that are in the same group as us.
 
 
 
The dangers of biases
By its very nature cognitive biases are unavoidable; in that, when they occur we are unaware that they are occurring. As we can’t  consciously control cognitive biases from happening, the only thing that we can do is be aware that they exist, and the situation where they are most likely to occur.
 
Having biases within ourselves is one thing.  But having biases in the technology that we use is something that we rarely think about.  Just as human bias is not immediately detectable, neither are the biases that exist it the technology that we use. To make sense of this topic I want to separate technology into two categories:
 
  1. Technology that we control and
  2. those the we don’t.
 
 
 
Technology that we can control 
This category describes technology that we know is accurate and true, in essence it’s technology without any biases.  As an example when we use a tool such as a calculator, a excel worksheet or even a map to get directions on our phones.  

 

When using these types of technologies we are confident that the information is real and that because information is in plain sight; you can identify street names and recognise building on a map.  You can see and understand the logic behind a calculator and control the formulas on a excel spreadsheet.

 
 
 
And technology that we don’t
Then we have technology that we don’t control.  Some examples of these technologies are large social media sites, search engines and intelligence assistance like Siri or Alexa.
 
At times (more often than we think) these technology will try to make decision on our behalf, they predict want we want to see and hide what we don’t.  Behind an attractive, simple and user friendly UI is an enormous amount of complexity which is hidden away from us.  Hidden, in the same way as our own cognitive biases.
 
 
 
A design problem?
Cognitive biases is something that we can’t control, but with regards to technology, this is something that we can control. The problem doesn’t lie so much with the technology, but in it’s design and design is something we have conscious control of.
 
Whether we are designers or not, at a minimum we should all be aware that biases do exist in some of the technology that we use and how they could be influencing our thinking and understanding.
 
 
 
Information vs Affirmation
Take some time to think about the two cognitive biases that were mentioned earlier…
 
When we are using tools that we control (i.e. that have no bias) we can be sure that the we are getting Information.
 
When we are using technology where biases exist, we are more likely to be receiving information that confirms our points of view and from sources that reflect a similiar opinions that we hold.  Whether our views are right or wrong, what we are getting is Affirmation.
 
I just think it’s important that we can distinguish between the two…

Lewis Hamilton, Human Beings & Innovation (they are all connected)

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Time to read: 3 mins

Working on Windows 10, I am currently using (and not by choice) Microsoft Edge as my browser. It has a feature whereby every time you open up a new tab, it shows you a news feed. I’m not a formula one racing fan but the title of an article appeared on my news feed that did capture my attention. The article was titled “Lewis Hamilton is ‘very serious’ about a music career”

 

Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton is a three time formula one championship winner and currently racing for the Mercedes Team, for those of you who have no idea 🙂  By all accounts he is successful in his career and life in general. In the article Lewis revealed his interest in pursuing a career in music.

 

“It’s got to the point now where it’s very serious. If I am not training; getting ready for a race, I’m here [working on my music]”

 

After reading the article I was a little perplexed, but then I started to think… Why would he want to pursue a music career when he is already successful and has a well established career in Formula One?

Most of us all have jobs but like Hamilton not all of us are able to create, share and express ourselves freely and in a way that we are comfortable with.

 

Being Human

As humans all of us have a need to express ourselves, to create something and share it with the world. It’s within all of us but the way we go about it comes out in many different forms. It may come in a form of a simple act like the way we dress, how we do our makeup or the tattoos we have. Sometimes in more obvious and deliberate displays.

 

When I was growing up my grandmother would work in the garden, come spring time people would walk past and stop to admire the snapdragon flowers in our front yard. My mother makes wedding dresses and my father casually plays the keyboard.

 

The point I am trying to make is these ‘works of expression’ that we all do are important even if it is a small daily act or (in Hamilton’s case) something as a dramatic as a potential career change. As he describes why he makes music:

“In here, I can be me, I can be vulnerable, I can show a side of me that people don’t get to see”

There is some truth in that with all avenues of creativity that we choose to pursue for ourselves. So why is it that some of us are more comfortable in pursuing avenues and outlets of creativity while others just shy away?

 

Inhibitors of Creativity

For those of us who have had to really put ourselves out there (sometimes not by choice), initially some of the biggest challenges are those that come from within ourselves.

 

It’s the concern or worry of what others will think of our work, which cause us to second guess ourselves. The fear of rejection, which freezes us from taking action. It’s conforming to what is expected of us, which changes our approach and ultimately what we deliver. But once we are able to get over such hurdles and work outside of what we considered to be safe; the rewards don’t come instantly but they will come and are worth while in the long term.

 

Anyone who is able to get past these limiting inhibitors will have a unique mindset. A mindset that provides a source of encouragement to those around them, they are influencers, an asset within the workplace and become drivers for change.

As an example business innovation would not happen without such a mindset.

 

Innovation within Business

There are some great resources available on business innovation from books, podcasts and MOOC’s . These will give you the 1,2,3 steps of innovation from; how you ask the right questions, identifying new frames, incubating new processes etc.

 

But because innovation relies on the confidence of your own ideas and your ability to challenge the status quo. How effective you are in the execution of these steps are heavily dependent on your mindset.

 

The good news is that you are already working on your mindset through daily acts or more elaborate extra curricula activities (examples given earlier), it’s just that we don’t normally associate them with being creative or bold and leading with confidence.

 

We just need to make the connection.