The devil you don’t know lives on the greener grass
“The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.”
This popular phrase carries a sentiment that human beings tend towards jealousy. We look at what other people have and assume their condition is easier, better, or more effective than the condition we face.
One of my most frustrating examples of this is that every industry or field I enter whether healthcare, financials, retail, aviation, food processing – they all think that THEY are the most heavily regulated industry on earth. Of course, that is probably reserved for the nuclear industry, for good reason.
Why does this matter? Because all the energy we sink into lamenting our own difficulties and comparing ourselves to others is energy
“The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.”
This is the same sentiment, but applied to people. It’s the counterbalance to the natural tendency to always thinks someone new from the outside will automatically be better than what we have to work with already. Often the case, however, is only that we know the flaws of the people already in our organization, therefore they have a strike against them. The people from the outside haven’t exposed us to their flaws yet. Instead, we bring them on board and then find out the flaws a few months later.
But sitting there in advance of the decision, it is much easier to assume that the outsider is better. Based on what we know, that is true. But it’s what we don’t know that gets us in trouble.
How do you avoid making mistakes in decisions that are based, in part, on ignorance?
3 Tactics to Overcome Imperfect Information Bias
- Always challenge yourself with the question “what do we not know that could hurt us later?” Even if you can’t fill all the knowledge, we aware of the fact that there is important information that you’re lacking.
- Find out more. That sounds simple, but first you must identify what you don’t know which is hard enough. Then you have to develop a mechanism or method to gain this knowledge. This slows down decision making, to be sure, but if it’s important, gain the knowledge first.
- Develop countermeasures to “the devil you know.” This should particularly be applied to people decisions. Sure, the person you have to work with isn’t perfect, but if you know their flaws, you can work with them. Develop plans to overcome, manage, or improve those weaknesses. You can’t do that for the devil you don’t know, because you don’t know their flaws yet.
What tactics do you use to overcome imperfect information bias in decision making? I would love to hear from you.
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