Do you think you make business decisions based on logic? If you’re like most people, you make decisions based on emotion and then find the facts to substantiate them. Even if you use the most sophisticated data analytics, your bias influences the hypotheses you pursue, the alternatives you consider, and the decisions you make.
A study by Antoine Bechara, Hannah Damasio, and Antonio Damasio shows that we all make decisions based primarily on the emotion we associate with the various alternatives. There’s a part of our brain, the ventro medial sector, that holds the linkage between scenarios we’ve experienced in the past and the emotion we felt as a result of them. When we consider a particular alternative during decision making, our brain finds similar scenarios we’ve experienced and reactivates the emotion we felt. Let’s say you’re considering hiring a brilliant employee, but last time you did that he ended up taking your job. As a result, you’ll feel negative about hiring him, even though you may not be consciously aware of why. Your logical mind will then find “rational” reasons not to hire him.
This reminds me of a guy, Paul, who was responsible for strategic planning in a company for which I worked. Paul enjoyed feeling like a radical change agent, and was too young to have experienced the negative emotion that accompanies a substantial failure. Time after time he would come up with an outrageous idea, such as totally revamping the way our industry priced services or related to customers. He would then use data analytics to prove it was a good idea, but he would pursue only the analysis that showed he was right, ignoring the paths that could have shown he was wrong. Unfortunately he did grave damage to the company before being fired.
Paul is a radical example, but we all have emotional biases in decision making. They can be helpful by reinforcing decision processes that worked out well and helping us learn from prior mistakes. But biases can also be detrimental, making us impulsively jump into a bad decision or hastily reject an option that has great potential. The key is to become conscious of our emotional biases by exploring the emotions that arise during decision making. If you’ve been burned by hiring brilliant employees in the past, be aware of this bias and consider it when making hiring decisions.
One reason that “two heads are better than one” when making decisions is that diversity helps us avoid emotional bias. Everyone has different emotional biases, so team-mates can challenge each other and provide balance during decision making.
As we learn more from neuroscience about the incredible power of emotions in teams, we see reasons to adopt techniques beyond the ordinary. For more on shaping team emotions to increase creativity and performance, get notified of the upcoming book Primal Teams: Harnessing the Incredible Power of Group Energy or sign up for a monthly summary of articles.Share