Four strategic cognitive biases
What prevents us from being good strategists
Businesspeople love to think that they can think clearly and rationally. But they are also humans; nothing human isn't alien to them.

First of all, the future is scary (read more here). Therefore, people would rather believe in a gloomy future scenario in which humankind is enslaved by AI than in an optimistic one. This cognitive bias comes from our natural fear of uncertainty, and it influences our ability to see more opportunities than threats.

The second bias, somehow connected with the first one, makes us believe that the world of tomorrow will be pretty much the same as we see around now. If someone insists that changes are inevitable, we try to convince ourselves that they will happen elsewhere – in a different industry or country. I have conducted many strategic workshops for organizations from different domains. And I often heard from the participants who had recently telephoned to call a taxi and bought paper flight tickets that their industry is "too conservative for fast changes."

The third bias often turns an ambitious strategy into an invaluable dream. In strategic workshops, the team members are often inspired and excited about the changes they are supposed to make while implementing the strategy. But then they go back to their offices, where they have many day-to-day tasks and short-term goals to achieve. Human minds can keep only four, plus or minus one, issues in focus, so strategic goals fade into the background on the sole ground that they are about the future, so they can wait.

The fourth bias is called the Ringelmann effect after the name of the scientist who discovered the bias back in 1913. The Ringelmann effect is the tendency for individual members of a group to become increasingly less productive as the size of their group increases. When a large team plays tug-of-war, each participant's effort is, on average, less than if the team is small. Everybody subconsciously believes that the job will be done by somebody else. When a strategy is formulated and the team switch to implementation, some team members are always convinced that it is "that other guy's" task rather than theirs.

Svyatoslav Biryulin

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