Live with it, don’t pretend you can avoid it

November 20, 2010

Dilbert is always interesting, but every now and then we get a strip which is spot on; scroll down to see the latest example. What I continue to find curious (well deeply frustrating if I am honest) is that its easy to get people to acknowledge cognitive bias and accept the limits of information. However they they proceed to argue for elimination of same. In this they are aided and abetting by a host of consultancy methods that owe more to the snake oil end of the self-help movement than they do to scientific management.

The essence of managing cognitive bias is to realise that it is unavoidable, it is an essential part of being human. Its why using human sensor networks in decision making to extend the cognitive ecology of the decision maker is key. By presenting many biases at a very early stage is key; if you let an opinion or interpretation form too early then its support becomes an ego issue and political. Most conflict in organisations is in the complex domain, where the evidence will support many conflicting theories. In these circumstances avoiding premature convergence on a solution is key for all parties. Experimental engagement is the only way forward.

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The Cynefin Company (formerly known as Cognitive Edge) was founded in 2005 by Dave Snowden. We believe in praxis and focus on building methods, tools and capability that apply the wisdom from Complex Adaptive Systems theory and other scientific disciplines in social systems. We are the world leader in developing management approaches (in society, government and industry) that empower organisations to absorb uncertainty, detect weak signals to enable sense-making in complex systems, act on the rich data, create resilience and, ultimately, thrive in a complex world.

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