Plato, the ancient Greek philosopher, famously stated that human behavior is a result of three different sources: desire, emotion and knowledge. The trouble for young entrepreneurs is, knowing which source is guiding your decisions.
While we may think that our decisions are entirely knowledge based, there are often emotional underpinnings at work as well. If something is particularly easy to visualize in the brain, it seems more accessible, though it may not be the correct answer. Getting bogged down in our own desires is also common, as is confirmation bias. People often seek evidence that confirms their initial hypotheses, ignoring opposing proof that may be overwhelming. Finally, becoming obsessed with numbers can be counterproductive. Though mathematics and data are essential for a successful business, you’ve got to see the forest through the trees.
This is a topic I’ve written a lot about for good reason. As a young founder, you’ll be responsible for leading your company down the path of success. While there are multiple avenues for getting there, there are just as many wrong turns.
Your intuition can of course be a powerful tool for making decisions, but it can also cloud your judgment and lead to inferior evaluations. Here are four ways to uncover your hidden biases and set out on the right path:
1. Weigh your options. Never make a decision without considering other options, no matter how fantastic it appears to be. Of course, you’ve got to take action. A passive entrepreneur will never get anywhere. But make sure to take several different proposals into account before you decide on one. Look far ahead at the consequences of your actions.
Related: What Type of Entrepreneur are You?
2. Friend a contrarian. You know the guy at the party that nobody likes? The one who disagrees with whatever people say just because he seems to enjoy it? Yeah, you’ve got to become friends with that guy. Though it may seem harsh, having someone around who pokes holes in your theories, even if they are ultimately sound, will only reinforce your decisions and make them stronger.
Remember, we are attempting to remove our biases here. Brainstorming shouldn’t only be about building upon one attractive suggestion. Tear it down. If it survives, you know your idea has staying power. An intelligent contrarian can also diminish the effects of groupthink. If everyone around you is always in agreement about everything, you may not be making optimal decisions.
3. Steer clear of pessimism. Overcoming bias is not all about second-guessing yourself. Often, negativity bias will rear its ugly head and it must be terminated. There is a big difference between being sensitive and perceptive and being needlessly pessimistic.
When you feel uncalled for emotional negativity creeping up, recognize it for what it is and try to turn it down. Don’t reject it completely. After all, it may be trying to tell you something. Instead, reframe your negative state of mind into a positive but questioning outlook. Turn your negativity into curiosity and put if to work for you.
4. Take a break. If you can’t seem to break from a negative state of mind or you need help considering alternative courses, take a break, get some sleep and hydrate yourself. Your body may simply be telling you you’re stressed out and in no mood to make proper, unbiased decisions.
What’s your best recipe for careful decision making? Let us know in the comments below.