Fundamentals of cognitive biases
Seven common pitfalls and workarounds that will help you communicate, collaborate, and solve problems
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Cognitive biases are the shortcuts our brains use to help us make the millions of tiny decisions we face each day—they're our defaults. We don’t realize it, but cognitive biases affect how we perceive situations, form opinions, and make decisions. And cognitive biases lead us to make mistakes: We look for the information we want to see. We jump to conclusions too quickly. We say things that make ourselves look good. They also impact how our customers make purchasing decisions (hint: not entirely rationally).
Join expert Cindy Alvarez to explore seven of the most common cognitive biases: cognitive dissonance, confirmation bias, anchoring, choice-supportive bias, projection bias, social desirability bias, and hindsight bias. You'll learn how to spot each and discover strategies to help overcome them. Knowing how these biases work will help you ask better questions, communicate more clearly, and more effectively understand your customers' needs and decisions.
What you’ll learn and how you can apply it
By the end of this live online course, you’ll understand:
- Why cognitive biases exist and how they affect everyone
- The negative consequences of cognitive biases
And you’ll be able to:
- Identify common cognitive biases and understand the situations in which they commonly arise
- Identify assumptions and beliefs at the start of projects or initiatives to disrupt the impact of hindsight biases
- Use lightweight research methods that reduce confirmation bias in customer and internal conversations
- Frame questions so that they make it "cognitively comfortable" for people to give honest, critical, and socially "undesirable" answers
This course is for you because…
- You’re a businessperson who must regularly make decisions based on imperfect, often conflicting data.
- You’re a researcher, customer success manager, or other customer-facing person who struggles to discern your customers' real needs from what they say they want.
- You’re looking for tools to help reconcile the concerns and questions from team members with different backgrounds and motivations.
- Familiarity with humans and the supposedly irrational decisions they make
- No psychology, user research, or collaboration expertise required
- Read "Harness the power of the 'Ben Franklin Effect' to get someone to like you" (article)
- Read "Cognitive biases are bad for business" (article)
- Identify one personal and one work-related situation where you feel like cognitive biases are preventing you or others from making good decisions
The timeframes are only estimates and may vary according to how the class is progressing.
Cognitive biases, hindsight bias, anchoring, and projection bias (45 minutes)
- Lecture: Why cognitive biases exist; hindsight bias; anchoring; and projection bias
- Group discussion: How have hindsight bias, anchoring, or projection bias negatively affected product or process decisions on your team?
- Hands-on exercise: Identify and document assumptions
Break (5 minutes)
Cognitive dissonance, confirmation bias, choice-supportive bias, and social desirability bias (60 minutes)
- Lecture: Overview of cognitive dissonance, confirmation bias, choice-supportive bias, and social desirability bias; using language to deflect cognitive biases in groups, in one-on-ones, and in writing
Hands-on exercises: Create an "escape hatch" for cognitive dissonance; rewrite questions to allow for socially undesirable answers
Wrap-up and Q&A (10 minutes)
Cindy Alvarez is the author of Lean Customer Development: Build Products Your Customers Will Buy. Her background spans psychology, interaction design, product management, research, and enterprise change management. After many years designing and building products in startups, Cindy now helps internal Microsoft teams level up their product development, customer discovery, and devops practices and build a more responsive, inclusive culture.