Take a moment to think about how we think

All day, every day, whatever your role within a business or production system, we make decisions. Whether it be small, daily decisions or deciding the direction of the whole business, we make decisions that influence the future. It is fascinating to see businesses with similar resources, making fundamentally different decisions, taking their businesses in totally different directions. But what of fuelling those decisions, and can we use this information to better understand our decision making process?


Figure 1: Belbin’s Team Roles. Source- leadershipsolutions.co.nz

Every decision that is made, however large or small, has to have an underlying motivation behind it. A lot of this comes down to your core personality, whether you are an optimist, a creative person, someone who is very thorough and organised, or risk averse. How you respond to past experiences or see opportunities in the future can be affected by how we think. Sociologist Dr. R. Meredith Belbin, defined eight distinct types of character (see Figure 1).

These eight types of character can be divided into three fundamental attitudes- Thinking, People and Action. Take time to understand both your own and the rest of your team’s attitude. This will help fuel your decisions and more accurately gauge responses from other people.

Furthermore, your decisions will be subconsciously influenced by your social comfort and desires. There are 5 essential steps that everybody climbs – one at a time – and this will influence your decision making process. For example, decisions that ensure security and protection issues such as a good enough wage to keep your home and feed your family will always be a priority over personal recognition and status. The essential steps are:

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
Source: simplypsychology.org/maslow

The Important bit

Understanding how you think and identifying which character best defines you, and, just as importantly, other people acting in your business, can be a powerful tool. You can identify gaps in your team’s thinking and also identify from what level other people are thinking. If you can understand where your thoughts, and others, come from, you can help to see areas of weakness and bias. Bias in certain areas can be dangerous if not identified.

Cognitive bias

Cognitive bias is the phrase given to things that disrupt your thought process. These are often developed from experience, or from an attitude not aligned with your business ambitions. There are 20 identified, but a few I want to draw particular attention to-

Conservatism Bias – When people are slow to accept new evidence that goes against their current thought process.

Bandwagon bias – If someone else adopts a belief, the probability of someone else believing it increases, irrelevant of the information presented. Just because someone else does it, it doesn’t mean it’s the best thing for your business.

Zero risk bias – We love certainty, even if it is counterproductive. People will sacrifice improvement as there is a risk that the chance will be unsuccessful, even if the chance of failure is small. This fuels the ‘that’s how we have always done it’ attitude.

Confirmation bias – only listening to evidence that supports your argument, ignoring any counter argument – common when comparing dairy production systems

Choice supportive bias – if you make a choice, you are inclined to think this is the best decision and be biased towards it, even if there is strong evidence that it was not.

Survivorship bias – we only look at the successful examples, for example selling 8 calves for £350 each, but not considering the two that died.

Blind spot bias – the most dangerous bias is not realising you are biased at all.

As we make decisions from day to day management to long term business decisions, we will be better informed as to what the best decisions are if we understand how we make them. Where do you and your team sit on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? Where do you and your team identify themselves in Belbin’s Team Roles and what bias are you putting on the decisions you make every day?

Mark Price
Dairy Specialist

Contact the Wynnstay Dairy Team here.

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