If you think you have no blind spot, think again. And once again. 

[Image courtesy of Karola Riegler at Flickr Creative Commons]

A friend of mine has decided to emigrate from the UK to France. And guess what? The weather is better there, and so are the supermarkets. As are the health system, the schools, housing, quality of life, roads, scenery.

You mention it, it’s better. Nothing and nobody will make him deviate from his course. He’s made up his mind, and everything now points in the same direction. Which in this case is the other side of the English Channel.

My friend is suffering from cognitive bias, which is something we all experience now and then. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve made up my mind and then made the facts fit my decision.

If you think about it, the chances of everything aligning with your choice are very slim indeed. Most things have a pretty equal distribution of positives and negatives, so alarm bells should be ringing if your choice is showing nothing but green lights.

In past lives, I’ve been part of unstoppable decisions (not mine, of course, but corporate ones – or am I in denial?) that with hindsight were a big mistake. But at the time, we all drank the Kool-Aid and went for it. 

The cognitive bias trap set me thinking about others that we all fall into from time to time. They can cause you to tweet inappropriately, launch campaigns that are doomed to fail, double down on losing bets and plough on with a piece of copy that’s just plain wrong. 

So what are some of the other cognitive biases that could stymie our marketing efforts? 

Information bias

This is one of my big failings, but admission is halfway to a cure, I suppose (at least that’s what I tell myself). I’ll often find myself thinking that if I read just another whitepaper, or scan another website, or download another Gartner report, I’ll do a better job.

But more information often simply slows you down, or confuses you, or makes you seek yet more inputs. And studies have actually shown that often, people make better decisions with less information. So stop the search, feel the pain and do it anyway. 

Anchoring bias

If you quote based on your time, how much do you charge? If you’re launching a product, how do you price it? Chances are that in both cases you have a scale that guides your decision.


Maybe it’s an industry standard, or what they market will tolerate, or worked back from your sales forecasts, or driven by your competitors. And that’s all very well, but be careful that you don’t get led astray by latching on to a figure when you don’t need to.

Stereotyping

We’ve all done it, whether we admit it or not. They’re that type of client, we think to ourselves as soon as they open their mouth or send an email. This is that type of blog post, we say as we churn out more of the same. I’ve seen this situation a million times before, we think confidently.

Now it’s difficult to see each conversation, person or situation with a fresh pair of eyes, but that doesn’t mean we should stop looking. Stereotypical thinking means unoriginal work, so stay alert and spot the difference. Then make a difference. 

Recency

This works hand in hand with innovation bias and the bandwagon effect. What you’ve just seen, or just read, is the next Big Thing. Never mind the plan, or what you decided yesterday. This is new, and fresh, and everybody’s doing it.

But just think about it. If that’s the case, why bother planning at all? Why not just sit back and see what each day brings? Here’s why: because then you’re always in tactical mode, changing direction at the drop of a hat. You never take the long view, and never think strategically.

***

So what about my friend who’s moving to pastures new? Well I’m keeping a diplomatic silence. If it doesn’t work out, it’s no big deal.

And if it does work out, I’ll have free holidays. Vive la France!

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