Your beliefs and opinions are based on years of experience and objective analysis, making them rational, logical and impartial – right?
Even the best of us tend to see the world through glasses forged from our past experiences and allow our preconceptions to dictate our reactions to various scenarios.
Cognitive biases affect the way we process information. They’re probably affecting the way you’re reading this article.
These are five of the most common types of cognitive bias that are probably affecting your communications at work:
- Base rate fallacy or confirmation bias
People tend to favour information that conforms to our existing beliefs while discounting evidence which counters them.
In the workplace, this could look like someone being assigned a market research project to determine which industry their organisation should branch into. They are a passionate fitness addict and have long wanted the company to introduce fitness services. They are more likely to favour the data which supports their preference and ignore that which indicates otherwise.
- Continued influence
We tend to hold onto whatever information we learn first, even if it’s then corrected.
For example, if you’re told an organisation has poor gender equality standards and is a negative place for women to work but you are later told the opposite, you are more likely to continue believing the former.
This becomes particularly relevant when planning your crisis strategy and brand monitoring.
- Curse of knowledge
You know your organisation inside and out; its product, services and everything in between. You’re so familiar with the jargon, acronyms and codes that things make sense to you out of context, meaning you sometimes forget to provide it for other people.
What does this mean for your messaging and communication plan? Nothing good. Everyone at your organisation might understand your references and anecdotes, but your consumer probably won’t.
- Bandwagon bias
It can be hard to voice an opinion that differs from your teammates’ or that of your boss. It’s much easier, particularly in organisations that don’t encourage diversity of thought, to adopt the view of the group.
This can lead to meetings becoming unproductive with attendees being uncomfortable challenging the collective agreement, or are even unaware of their own conformity to the status quo.
This environment enables statements like “because this is how we’ve always done it” and is detrimental to innovation and development.
- Planning fallacy
“This should only take you a couple of hours to complete, can you have it on my desk by this afternoon?” A couple of hours. To get this content strategy done I need to research the market, review previous campaigns, consult with the project team, conduct competitor research, analyse traffic periods… does my boss even know what I do?
Sound familiar? Planning fallacy is the tendency to underestimate how long take will take to complete. During initial project planning, key dates can appear realistic but become less so when push comes to shove.
Many of us are guilty of failing to allow time for complications, mix ups or even sick leave. Planning fallacy will undermine your success and result in you failing to meet your deadlines.
Want to learn how to master your own and others’ cognitive biases? Or use behavioural insights to inform your communication strategy?
The Public Sector Strategic Communications & Engagement conference is running in Canberra from 24 – 27 February 2020. Learn from and network with like-minded communications professionals from across Australia’s public sector with insights on emerging and best practice initiatives and actionable tools.