2014-06-18

Cognitive biases in enterprise IT

I have a theory that almost all inefficiencies, problems, or destructive behaviorisms in enterprise IT settings can be classified and connected to some type of cognitive bias. I realized this as I was reading through "Cognitive Biases - A Visual Study Guide". At a macro level you can easily see how these apply. Things like:

  • The Consultation Paradox, and how it baffles you that your advice is ignored but when a consultant comes it and says the same thing, it's take up like no one has recommended it before
  • How System Justification Effect causes infrastructure or development teams to maintain the status quo rather than modernize, seek improvements, adapt to needs of others, etc.
  • How the False Consensus Effect causes you to over-estimate how much change you think you've influenced but haven't (and you're surprised when you find an island of teams who completely disagree with what change you're trying to make)
  • When you try an new technique to speed up a deployment but it has a bug, and the Negatively Bias causes people to irrationally recommend against improvements for a period of time (related to Von Restorff effect as well)

There's classifications for biases you knew existed but never knew they had a proper name. Read through them yourself and I bet you can think of an example scenario for each bias if you've worked in enterprise IT long enough.

I even see some of my own work-place behaviors couched in some of these cognitive biases. Understanding each one and being conscious of them might help to avoid the error.

Now, how to remember each bias, recognize when they present themselves, and defuse or counter-act them, that's the hard part.