After nearly 4 years of working on the data team in the Research Group at gap intelligence, this year I was presented with the opportunity to transition to the product development team as an Associate Product Manager. I readily jumped at the chance to try on a new hat here at gap, to learn new skills, and to take advantage of this unique position that allows me to work, in some capacity, with everyone at the company.
In the name of professional development I recently attended a two-day workshop to become a Certified Scrum Product Owner. (If you are asking yourself, “What the heck is a product owner?” hop on over to this great blog post to learn more!) Throughout the course, we covered everything from creating a product vision and building roadmaps to writing user stories and prioritizing backlogs. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting product owners from all over San Diego and learned so much, but my favorite activity had to do with the length of the Mississippi River (stay with me here).
Our instructor passed out half sheets of paper to everyone in the class with a two-question quiz on it. Question #1: Is the Mississippi River longer or shorter than 2000 miles? Question #2: Exactly how long is the Mississippi River? My answers were “shorter” and “1795 miles” respectively. I quickly turned my quiz in, only to find out moments later that I had fallen victim to COGNITIVE BIAS! (audible gasp) Turns out half the class had quizzes that asked “Is the Mississippi River longer or shorter than 2000 miles?” and the other half of the class had quizzes that asked “Is the Mississippi River longer or shorter than 100 miles?” For the most part, participants guessed the river was relatively close in length to the number suggested in question one. BAM. Without even realizing it, I had been hit with Anchoring Bias, an impulse that caused unrelated numerical information to impact my decision.
According to BusinessDictionary.com, cognitive bias is the “common tendency to acquire and process information by filtering it through one's own likes, dislikes, and experiences.” I remember maybe vaguely learning about cognitive bias in some PSYCH 101 class in college, but it wasn’t until recently that I considered how some of these biases affect me as a product manager and throughout my day to day life. In addition to Anchoring Bias, the following are three different biases that I am going to be more mindful of. I am going to work on making an effort to acknowledge and avoid these tendencies and encourage you to do the same!
This is a tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one's existing beliefs or theories. This bias is sometimes referred to as the “experience bias” because it may lead you to make decisions based solely on your past experiences and the preconceptions you have already formed instead of considering potentially critical current information.
This bias occurs when you judge the likelihood of an outcome based on examples or instances that can be easily recalled. Just because something is top of mind or easy to remember doesn’t mean it’s the most important! (Between you and me, I struggle with this one the most.)
If you are reading this and thinking to yourself, “I am not biased! I know better than that.” then you, my friend, might be suffering from blindspot bias. This is a tendency to view yourself as less biased than other people and can cloud your ability to see past actual biases you are experiencing.
It’s crucial to remember that we are all affected by various biases all day every day and only by acknowledging them can we see beyond them and make decisions that are truly most beneficial to ourselves and those around us.
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