How do project managers avoid biases and blind spots?

Friday, October 11th, 2013 By Jack Nevison

Whether we are conscious of them or not, everyone has blind spots. Sometimes, we're just biased toward—or against—a particular idea and unable to consider another point of view. Such biases do not make for good project management.

Harvard Business Review contributors John Dame and Jeffrey Gedmin understand how blind spots can threaten a project. In their recent article the authors list some of the biases managers face and ways in which they can be overcome.

First, there's the problem of confirmation bias. This is the unfortunate habit of fitting new information to pre-conceived notions about a problem. For example, if you are convinced that consumers will hate a product, you may tend to give special importance to negative responses while ignoring positives ones. In short, your bias has distorted your interpretation of the data, with potentially damaging consequences for your project.

It's not easy to fight a confirmation bias—we all experience it at some point. While the authors recommend playing devil's advocate for yourself, it's probably an even better idea to get input from coworkers as well.

But proceed with caution, and beware the dangers of groupthink. We've all seen what happens when people with the same political views spend too much time chatting together on internet forums — nothing new is learned. The same problem exists in the business world. If you seek opinions only from people who think the same way you do, you'll never be able to consider the solution to a problem from all possible angles.

New Leaf's programs can show you how escape the confirmation bias as well as manage several other biases (including overconfidence, ignoring base-rates, and anchoring) to produce less-biased estimates of work and schedule. Our white paper, "Good Estimates and Bad Biases" can help you avoid the "psychological traps" that project estimates are prey to.

In addition, QPM, our series of online educational games, lets you further hone your estimating skills while earning PDUs for PMP recertification.

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