We humans are amazingly creative and adaptive creatures. If we’re so great, then why do we often make such illogical decisions? It turns out that our brains take in a ton of information to solve many problems on a daily basis; Problems like standing up or typing up an email. So over millions of years of evolution, our brains added some shortcuts. Wherever possible, any task that could be automated was moved from the slow manual-thinking system to fast auto-thinking or reflex system.
Interestingly, we do something similar here at Heliocore for our customers; Converting their slow, manual and repetitive tasks to automated ones so they can better handle their own deluge of tasks. The problem with the biological version of all this automation is that these systems are a kludge of organically grown systems instead of being purposefully engineered.
For our brains, a piece of information hits the logical, analytical, problem-solving (slow) system only after being processed and distorted by the fast parts like memory, reflex and emotion. That unintentional, and sometimes counterproductive processing has an impact on everything we do. That means we can take actions or hold beliefs that are illogical and not even realize we’re doing it. Scientists call these patterns “Cognitive Biases”.
What can be done about these cognitive biases? Only so much. Daniel Kahneman, founder of the field and Nobel Prize winner for his work on the topic, has said that despite spending his entire life studying cognitive biases, he’s still not immune to them. While there doesn’t seem to be a way to completely prevent them, one way to fight them is to recognize them. “Knowledge is Power,” as they say, and if you recognize the potential for these biases early there are some tips and tricks to mitigate them.
In the coming weeks, we’ll be creating a collection of blog posts about cognitive biases in relation to software development and IT. In this series, we hope to make you and your teams a bit more resilient against these automatic parts of your brain while having a bit of fun highlighting some scenarios we’ve seen these biases happen in tech.
We’d love to hear from you too! Post a comment or reach out to our email if you’ve got some stories of cognitive bias woe. If it’s a good story, we’ll add it into our series. Stay tuned for our first article on Irrational Escalation of Commitment, also know as “Doubling Down”. Once you identify it, I’m sure you’ll think of dozens of examples, just hopefully not at your company.