Do you knock on wood? Beware of cognitive bias.

cognitive bias self awareness May 16, 2023
Do you knock on wood? Beware of cognitive bias

Are you familiar with the tradition of knocking on wood for luck?

Beware. It is a great example of a brain's #cognitivebias that can sabotage our performance, relationships as well as wellbeing.


🌲 It is believed that the tradition of knocking on wood comes from the ancient Celtic times when people believed it asked spirits or goods of the trees for protection or, knocked on wood to show gratitude for the stroke of good luck.

🌳🔍 The "knock on wood" bias, also known as the "magical thinking" bias, or "illusion of control" bias, refers to our tendency to believe that engaging in a superstitious action can prevent a positive event from being "jinxed" or reversed.

🌟 Additionally, it also gives us an illusion of control over future outcomes.

Why does it happen?

🧠 Our brains create "thinking shortcuts" in order to speed up decision making and save energy. However, this strategy may not always work the best, as you learn below. These two particular biases also have a psychological function - they provide us with a sense of psychological safety and relief from anxiety in the world that is unpredictable and uncertain.

While these practices can provide temporary emotional relief and save some brain energy, it is important to recognize that sustainable success is generally based on concrete actions, preparation, and thoughtful decision-making.     

🌟 The good news is that the more aware we are of our "cognitive biases", the better-informed decisions we can make. (Comes under the "self-awareness" part of the emotional intelligence skills)

🚪🧠 How can these cognitive biases influence our decision-making and make things worse if we are not self-aware?

🌟 Let's explore a few examples in a business context. 🧠📊

1️⃣  Micro-management: Imagine a manager whose brain is hijacked by the "illusion of control" bias. They believe that their involvement in every small task is necessary for success. This behavior not only hampers employee autonomy and growth but also hinders innovation and creativity within the team. It can also create a toxic work environment where team members feel disempowered and undervalued.

2️⃣ Failure to Adapt to Change: Businesses that cling to outdated processes or resist change due to an illusion of control risk falling behind their competitors. Remember Kodak?

3️⃣ Overlooking Contributing Factors: Let's say a leader hires the "sales star" who in the past business, seemed to make mountains move. The leader thinks that this person is going to bring "good luck & fortune" to the company, as they brought that to the company before. By solely attributing success to the salesperson, the executive may overlook other crucial factors that played a significant role in the previous success. They might disregard aspects such as market research, the quality of product itself, and other key factors. 

🌟 What are your thoughts on these cognitive biases?

 Originally published on LinkedIn, if you would like to comment, join us there :) 

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