It appears that as humans we have a “makes sense” switch in our brains. Here is the way it works. First we decide what we think about an issue and take a position on it. Then we run our decision through some sort of mental process to gather information in support of our position. Often, when we first stumble across any evidence that causes us to think, “That makes sense,” we abandon any further exploration, store our position in memory for possible future use and move on to the next thing.
Once such a decision is stored in memory, we develop strong mental filters that allow new information in support of our position to easily enter our minds and block information that does not support our position. We, in effect, create our own extremely biased internal mental pundits similar to the folks you see and hear blathering on endlessly on CNN, Fox News and other radio and TV shows.
Of course, there are at least two things seriously wrong with this approach. First, a person should probably refrain from deciding on a position before looking at any evidence and second, it is not a good idea to stop exploration after encountering the first bit of supporting “makes sense” evidence.
For example, two items that serve the same purpose cost $5 and $10 respectively. If you are a price-sensitive buyer, you might quickly conclude that the first item sells for half the price of the second item; therefore it makes sense to buy the $5 item. However, if your frame of mind is cost sensitivity rather than price sensitivity, you might explore further and discover that the second item will easily last three times longer than the first item. Based on this new information, it makes more sense to buy the second item.
So, how can we avoid this type of mistake in running our businesses? Here’s an idea. When you have important decisions to make that will strongly impact the long-term success of your business, ask the best minds in your company to consider both sides of the issue and prepare for a debate-like discussion. However, do not tell them which side of the debate they will be asked to specifically defend until you meet to discuss the issue.
Researchers have tested this idea by giving people an agreement and asking them to read and draw conclusions on its fairness and prepare for a discussion. If they were told which side they would argue beforehand, they read it quite differently than when they were not told which side they would be defending.
This sounds like an idea worth trying in your business to settle differences and creatively explore options related to products, service, hiring, incentives and many other aspects of a typical business. Maybe it can help you and your employees avoid the “makes sense” thinking trap.
For extra credit, make sure the front-line people who will actually have to execute any strategy are included in the discussion.
Chris Crouch is CEO of DME Training and Consulting and author of several books on improving productivity. Contact him through www.dmetraining.com.