The Three Mental Biases That Are Sabotaging Your Decision-making

Written by Chris Lewis Tuesday 16 October 2018
Decision-making can be difficult for managers
Person in front of three arrows pointing at different directions

If anxiety is keeping you awake at night, welcome to the club. The Clinical Sleep Research Unit at Loughborough University says that almost a third of us suffer from it. Worrying about the outcome of events is something that comes to all leaders, and it’s quite normal. In fact, part of the problem is that people think it’s not normal.

Anxiety is normal for leaders

The only alternative to having anxiety about an outcome is certainty – and this has no role in senior leadership thinking. The higher up the leader, the more ambiguity there is for them to deal with within their working lives.

The reason for this is the increasing amount of contradictions that leaders face in the course of decision-making. In The Leadership Lab, we identify eight types of paradox, but here are some of the issues to look out for.

The problems affecting decision-making for leaders

1. The Information/Inundation Paradox

Firstly, there’s the information/inundation paradox. We have more information available to us than ever before, but the overload constantly interrupts and distracts us. This prevents us from thinking deeply about long-term solutions. Constant changes create the illusion of a fast-paced working environment. In reality, projects move more slowly.

The solution: To avoid being distracted, leaders need to receive their information in periodic updates rather than allow it to manage them constantly.

Read more: 12 productivity hacks all managers need

2. The Immediacy/Impatience Paradox

Order it now, get it this afternoon. Swipe right, find a new partner. Instant responses create an expectation that the real world is like this. However, some of the most important roles that hold our world together – like nursing, parenting or teaching – cannot run on this basis. They need to be managed patiently. Levels of public selfishness, anger and impatience and at an all-time high, no matter where you look. It’s a problem we need to resolve.

3. The Data/Illogicality Paradox

Finally, because we have so much more data available to us, there’s a tendency to think the whole world is logical. This is a problem in a number of ways. For data to exist it must be historic, therefore it’s not necessarily an indicator of the future. Trends are not linear; some are cyclical. This means managers need to view each event or circumstance as unique.

Simply having awareness of our mental biases can improve decision-making. And if you're feeling like you’re unsure about what to do – that’s completely normal.

Read more: How to beat your unconscious bias

Image: Shutterstock

Chris Lewis

Chris Lewis

Chris Lewis is founder of communications agency LEWIS and co-author of The Leadership Lab: Understanding Leadership in the 21st Century (Kogan Page, paperback £14.99)