Wikipedia defines bias as “..an inclination or outlook to present or hold a partial perspective, often accompanied by a refusal to consider the possible merits of alternate points of view.”
Bias is interesting for me in how it affects our decision making. Currently, I am reading a book by Charles Duhigg that is titled Smarter, Faster, Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business. In it, he had a great explanation of how our experiences lead to biases that affect our assumptions on our way to evaluating a situation in order to choose or decide something.
Our experiences, good or bad, gives us a partial taste of the world around us. Since we don’t have unlimited time, our experiences are limited. Where we have been and what we have seen, always puts boundaries around what we actually know. So our lives are made up of an assortment of partial perspectives or little bits of stories that are personal to us. They are partial because we tell our stories from only our perspective of what we experienced or saw.
Experiences are like pieces to a large puzzle that we slowly acquire through our lifetime. The fewer we have, the less of the world we see. The more partial our perspectives become therefore making us more biased in what we believe to be true.
What does this have to do with our decisions? When faced with situations, issues, or problems we are quick to form our opinions as to what is wrong and what we need to do next. While quickly running through all of this, what is less apparent is that we all make assumptions about what we see or believe to be true at the beginning of our decision-making process.
These assumptions are based on our experience of the parts of life we have tasted. So inherently, our assumptions will have some bias in them. Our assumptions always get built on the partial perspectives that we believe to be true by what we have experienced in our lives.
The probability that our choices in life will be flawed goes up tremendously because of this problem of having only partial perspectives to choose from. We need alternate points of view to build a complete picture of our options in all situations.
To become more productive or to get more traction in your life you need to understand that you most likely are biased or have imperfect knowledge. Understanding this should lead you to become more collaborative with people who are more successful or have much broader life experiences to help fill in the gaps in your perspective before making significant choices in your life when they occur.
You won’t always choose right, but you should begin to make less mistakes or false starts once you slow down, understand the weakness of having biases and by working thoughtfully to expand our world views to begin to see more of what is possible.