As I said last week, it’s amazing how much our minds are controlling us, and what people think of us, without us knowing it. So I’m exploring how this may be important for you, and your work.
Confirmation bias is the #1 mother of all biases, and it refers to our tendency to like information that confirms what we think, and ignoring or ‘reinterpreting’ any info that contradicts our beliefs.
Why is this important?
Without knowing it, we are all interpreting information the way that suits us. And we then make decisions based not so much on what is real, but what we believe to be true. Which can be OK, but, it can create problems!
Why does it matter?
The default bias your audience has toward your organisation, may be contributing positively, or it may be causing issues.
The Good News
When the bias is positive, it’s great.
We know when your audience have a positive connection with you, biases are good. Your events and intiatives are supported, more is seen as better, whether that be the events you produce, the comms you put out, your requests to support things, and things to buy.
So how do we use this?
When a relationship is positive and trending up, it’s a good time to harness this momentum, and do more, offer more, and ask more of your audience. They will see this in a positive light, and an opportunity, not a burden. So it is good to do your research, and to know who these people are in your audience, and then when you can reaffirm their positive biases.
The Bad News
The flip-side is when the confirmation bias goes the other way, and every decision is seen as a bad one!
When your audience or wider public bias is negative toward your organisation, or, the thinking is not in line with what you’d like it to be, anything you do, any decision, or communication, can be seen as reinforcement of that opinion, no matter what you do.
For example, if your community think your event is disruptive, or a waste of their money, then any of your decisions around the event will be seen in a negative light. Or if your event has grown, it may be seen as ‘selling out’ and having lost touch with it’s core audience. Likewise, there is often a belief that the leaders or ‘head office’ of an organising body is the evil empire, and the intention or wisdom of most decisions is questioned. These biases often place us on the back foot, where anything we do is perceived in the wrong way. There are many opinions, and most often strongly held!
For example, an Olympic bid will generally have either supporters or detractors, and any plans will be viewed thru rose tinted glasses, or through another lense!
The funny thing with events is, given that people are so invested in it, that these firmly held opinions are also well voiced!
Reframing (or repositioning) is often essential in this case. As how something is framed is central to our biases (more on that one in the coming weeks!).
But are we right?
The irony of biases is of course that in some of these cases perhaps our audience may actually be right, given we, as the organisers may we operating from our own biases. So yes, we do need to listen, and check our own biases are not blinding the decisions we are making.
And how do we work with this?
“Seek first to understand, then to be understood” – Dr. Stephen Covey
Have some empathy
This to me is all a good reminder, to attempt to understand the position of those around us, to see what story they are telling themselves, and, what story you are telling yourself. Not just jumping to confirm our own beliefs, but checking what may be right. As it may be fact, or, it may be fiction.
Use evidence to make better decisions
A mantra in my Experience Design work is to help people make sense of the data, and, the intuition you have gained from you lived experiences. To make decisions part led by the head and by the heart. A bit of the art, and the science, of event design.
Moneyball was a great movie exposing how our biases influence our decisions in sports. In how we tend to favor people who “look the part”. How we have a bias toward people who match up with our preconceived notions of what we would expect them be like. And this type of cognitive, often subconscious, bias has been shown to consistently affect decision-making in all our professional settings.
What about our gut feeling?
Yes I completely agree with the power of intuition, and the fact your biases are probably at times serving you well. Your 10,000 hours (or more) of lived experiences will create ‘rules of thumb’, and well educated beliefs or biases, that you can use to good effect.
So are biases for good, or evil? I think like most things, it’s all about balance, and depends on the situation.
The main thing is to be aware of what is going on. Biases are the norm, but understanding them is not, so next week we will unpack a few more biases that may be influencing you, and your events.
This is all to help you make more influential events, and have more influence as an event professional.
If you need some more help with that, just let me know!