It is interesting to reflect on the ‘Fake News’ debate that is grabbing the headlines these days. Essentially fake news is about making up or spinning stories which support an agenda or perspective. In other words the ‘spinner’ already has a particular point of view (BIAS) and is seeking to sell this point of view to others.
This bias can be conscious, but perhaps more worrying can also be unconscious. For example, in the run up to the US Presidential election many of us ignored or didn’t seek out ‘facts’ which ran contrary to the general view that Clinton would win – similar behaviour was evident in the Brexit debate.
Friedrich Nietsche said ‘There are no facts, only interpretations’. This being the case we need to understand our own and other’s interpretations and motivations.
Let’s consider the implications of the above for decision making in the workplace.
The key message is that you need to investigate and understand bias in information.
A healthy scepticism should be encouraged and be part of the mindset of everyone involved in the decision making process. The veracity of ‘facts’ can only be determined if we take the time to understand the perspective of the purveyor of ‘facts’.
In this process don’t be lulled into a false sense of security by the words that are used to describe information sources. Some examples: ‘Independent survey’, ‘Scientific research’, ‘Evidenced based’, ‘Robust Analysis’ , ‘Unbiased’, ‘Validated data’, ‘Best Practise’. Such claims to truth should be challenged.
As a decision maker you need a high level of awareness of your own (and others) biases. You also need to remain open minded and patient throughout the decision making process, and avoid rushing to judgement until relevant research and validation of input information is complete.
The development of critical thinking skills has long been the holy grail of MBA programmes. So don’t be slow to encourage and empower those in your organisation with such skills!