08 June 2013

The three biases ...

All the people and Organizations (After all, companies are made of people) go through three biases. They are 'Status Quo Bias', which can also be called as Inertia Bias, Action Bias and Closure Bias.
What are these?
Inertia Bias or Status Quo Bias is the tendency to stick to the Current situation, however bad it may be. Despite knowing that Inertia bias always hurts (without exceptions), people are content to maintain Status Quo. A smoker, who knows he has to quit, but continue to smoke, is a victim of Status Quo Bias. So is a person who hates the job that he is doing, but is doing nothing to change the environment, a victim of Status Quo Bias. 
A company, which knows that the current processes are hurting, but is not doing anything to change is a victim of Status Quo Bias. For example is company which, after having implemented technology solutions, still continues with the paper based approval systems. 
There are many other examples.
People who suffer from Status Quo bias is living life like a dream. In a dream, you see and feel things that need to change, but you don't (or Can't) change anything. Or it may be that you are a superman doing exceptional things in a dream, and wake up and realize that nothing has changed and nothing was done. Similarly people with Status Quo bias might continue to go on as if they are doing stuff. They go through life as if it is a ritual. They get up in the morning, go to office, come back, watch TV, eat dinner, go to sleep, get up in the morning and so on. Just like in a dream, they are taking action but nothing has changed. They have not become better individuals, they have not learned anything new, they have not quit a bad habit, nothing. The whole thing was a dream. That is why, when people who suddenly realize the impact of Status Quo Bias tell you that they 'Woke Up'..
Status Quo Bias is illustrated by the famous story of Rip Van Winkle. He slept for 20 years when all around him the American Revolution was going on. When he woke up,, he found the the world has moved on while he was in his sleep. 
Some people realize that they are in a status quo bias and need to take action. So they move to the next bias, the action bias.
The action bias, is a tendency to take action and continue taking action without a focus on closure. A software engineer who keeps modifying his code adding bells and whistles to the code is a victim of action bias. People who are victims of action bias think that taking action is all that they have to do. So just like Forrest Gump, who kept running without any aim or objective, these people are always busy, always working. Still nothing seems to happen.
They will provide temporary solutions to the problems without going for a long term solution. They will not spend the time in doing the 'Root Cause Analysis'. They will not spend time in training and education. They are like 'Problem Magnets'. All the problems come to them. They are flooded with problems. They are always busy solving multiple problems at the same time.
There is no time to step back and reflect on what is happening. Why are all these problems coming up? How do I resolve them permanently?
That thought process leads me to the third bias, the 'Closure Bias'. 
This is where you should be. One can only grow if one develops 'Closure Bias'. One should be able to identify problems, identify why they are happening and take action to close the problems completely. People tend to confuse 'Action Bias' with 'Closure Bias'. "I regularly go to Gym", they will say, "But my weight is remaining the same". It is possible that while they go to Gym and do exercises regularly, they are not scientifically following a weight reduction regimen. Probably they do not control their diet. Probably they only do one kind of exercise and the body has got adjusted to the regimen. People with Closure Bias will clinically analyse the issue, seek help if necessary and take a structured approach to close the issue.
So there we are. What type of biases do you have?
If you have a status quo bias, at least move on to the action bias. And then strive to move to Closure Bias. That is how you grow.


majaal said...

Thanks a lot for detailed explanation , i really appreciate it. Most of the have Inertia bias and action bias like you correctly mentioned. There is a problem and we know about it but it happens that we don't know how to deal with it. However sometimes people take right steps but situation is too much dependent on luck and they fail which discourages then like it happens in relationships.

Ramaswamy V K said...

Yes, Majaal, I agree with you. One of the ways in which we can handle the point that you mentioned is by taking different actions. Another way is to find out people who have been thru this and have come out successfully. The key is in not giving up.