We Can’t Let Confirmation Bias Set In

Confirmation bias gives life to bad ideas.

I’ve often seen it play out like this: You set out to guide an innovative new product or service to market. Initially, you’re fully committed to following the “test & learn” evidence. You’re aware that deal-killing assumptions may prove false and you encourage your team to figure that out as quickly and cheaply as possible.

There’s a moment, though, when your priorities start to shift. You begin to do what’s best for you rather than what’s best for the company. Confirmation bias sets in. If experimentation generates 10 insights with 9 invalidating critical assumptions, you try to hide those 9 behind the 1 validating insight that remains.

Before that moment, calling a halt to things could be seen as good judgment. Perhaps praised as a courageous, difficult decision that few make. After that moment, calling a halt to things might mean that you screwed up — that you shouldn’t have let things go so far. And so you rationalize pushing forward, even though inside you feel — or know — that’s the wrong move.

If we’re going to stop bad ideas from reaching the market, we’ve got to figure out how to keep “that moment” from happening. We can’t let confirmation bias set in.