- Coming December 18: The Trap of Beautiful Language
- As we assess the validity of others' statements, we risk making a characteristically human error — we confuse the beauty of their language with the reliability of its meaning. We're easily thrown off by alliteration, anaphora, epistrophe, and chiasmus. Available here and by RSS on December 18.
- And on December 25: Disjoint Awareness
- In collaborations, awareness of how our own work might interfere with the work of others is essential. Unless our awareness of others' work — and their awareness of ours — matches reality, the collaboration's objective is at risk. Available here and by RSS on December 25.
Other topical archives:
December 11, 2019
- The Rhyme-as-Reason Effect
- When we speak or write, the phrases we use have both form and meaning. Although we usually think of form and meaning as distinct, humans tend to assess as more meaningful and valid those phrases that are more beautifully formed. The rhyme-as-reason effect causes us to confuse the validity of a phrase with its aesthetics.
September 18, 2019
- The Planning Fallacy and Self-Interest
- A well-known cognitive bias, the planning fallacy, accounts for many unrealistic estimates of project cost and schedule. Overruns are common. But another cognitive bias, and organizational politics, combine with the planning fallacy to make a bad situation even worse.
September 4, 2019
- How Messages Get Mixed
- Although most authors of mixed messages don't intend to be confusing, message mixing does happen. One of the most fascinating mixing mechanisms occurs in the mind of the recipient of the message.
August 21, 2019
- Perfectionism and Avoidance
- Avoiding tasks we regard as unpleasant, boring, or intimidating is a pattern known as procrastination. Perfectionism is another pattern. The interplay between the two makes intervention a bit tricky.
July 24, 2019
- The Stupidity Attribution Error
- In workplace debates, we sometimes conclude erroneously that only stupidity can explain why our debate partners fail to grasp the elegance or importance of our arguments. There are many other possibilities.
December 12, 2018
- Effects of Shared Information Bias: II
- Shared information bias is widely recognized as a cause of bad decisions. But over time, it can also erode a group's ability to assess reality accurately. That can lead to a widening gap between reality and the group's perceptions of reality.
December 5, 2018
- Effects of Shared Information Bias: I
- Shared information bias is the tendency for group discussions to emphasize what everyone already knows. It's widely believed to lead to bad decisions. But it can do much more damage than that.
February 21, 2018
- The Ultimate Attribution Error at Work
- When we attribute the behavior of members of groups to some cause, either personal or situational, we tend to make systematic errors. Those errors can be expensive and avoidable.
July 13, 2016
- Cognitive Biases and Influence: II
- Most advice about influencing others offers intentional tactics. Yet, the techniques we actually use are often unintentional, and we're therefore unaware of them. Among these are tactics exploiting cognitive biases.
July 6, 2016
- Cognitive Biases and Influence: I
- The techniques of influence include inadvertent — and not-so-inadvertent — uses of cognitive biases. They are one way we lead each other to accept or decide things that rationality cannot support.
December 23, 2015
- Wishful Significance: II
- When we're beset by seemingly unresolvable problems, we sometimes conclude that "wishful thinking" was the cause. Wishful thinking can result from errors in assessing the significance of our observations. Here's a second group of causes of erroneous assessment of significance.
December 16, 2015
- Wishful Significance: I
- When things don't work out, and we investigate why, we sometimes attribute our misfortune to "wishful thinking." In this part of our exploration of wishful thinking we examine how we arrive at mistaken assessments of the significance of what we see, hear, or learn.
April 15, 2015
- Overconfidence at Work
- Confidence in our judgments and ourselves is essential to success. Confidence misplaced — overconfidence — leads to trouble and failure. Understanding the causes and consequences of overconfidence can be most useful.
March 11, 2015
- Historical Debates at Work
- One obstacle to high performance in teams is the historical debate — arguing about who said what and when, or who agreed to what and when. Here are suggestions for ending and preventing historical debates.
March 26, 2014
- Why Scope Expands: II
- The scope of an effort underway tends to expand over time. Why do scopes not contract just as often? One cause might be cognitive biases that make us more receptive to expansion than contraction.
March 19, 2014
- Why Scope Expands: I
- Scope creep is depressingly familiar. Its anti-partner, spontaneous and stealthy scope contraction, has no accepted name, and is rarely seen. Why?
March 12, 2014
- Scope Creep and Confirmation Bias
- As we've seen, some cognitive biases can contribute to the incidence of scope creep in projects and other efforts. Confirmation bias, which causes us to prefer evidence that bolsters our preconceptions, is one of these.
February 26, 2014
- Scope Creep, Hot Hands, and the Illusion of Control
- Despite our awareness of scope creep's dangerous effects on projects and other efforts, we seem unable to prevent it. Two cognitive biases — the "hot hand fallacy" and "the illusion of control" — might provide explanations.
February 19, 2014
- Scope Creep and the Planning Fallacy
- Much is known about scope creep, but it nevertheless occurs with such alarming frequency that in some organizations, it's a certainty. Perhaps what keeps us from controlling it better is that its causes can't be addressed with management methodology. Its causes might be, in part, psychological.
May 29, 2013
- Managing Hindsight Bias Risk
- Performance appraisal practices and project retrospectives both rely on evaluating performance after outcomes are known. Unfortunately, a well-known bias — hindsight bias — can limit the effectiveness of many organizational processes, including both performance appraisal and project retrospectives.
November 30, 2011
- Confirmation Bias: Workplace Consequences Part II
- We continue our exploration of confirmation bias. In this Part II, we explore its effects in management processes.
November 23, 2011
- Confirmation Bias: Workplace Consequences Part I
- We continue our exploration of confirmation bias, paying special attention to the consequences it causes in the workplace. In this part, we explore its effects on our thinking.
July 20, 2011
- Self-Serving Bias in Organizations
- We all want to believe that we can rely on the good judgment of decision makers when they make decisions that affect organizational performance. But they're human, and they are therefore subject to a cognitive bias known as self-serving bias. Here's a look at what can happen.
January 19, 2011
- The Focusing Illusion in Organizations
- The judgments we make at work, like the judgments we make elsewhere in life, are subject to human fallibility in the form of cognitive biases. One of these is the Focusing Illusion. Here are some examples to watch for.
January 7, 2009
- The Paradox of Confidence
- Most of us interpret a confident manner as evidence of competence, and a hesitant manner as evidence of lesser ability. Recent research suggests that confidence and competence are inversely correlated. If so, our assessments of credibility and competence are thrown into question.
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