Sunday, October 30, 2016

Does Our Moral Superiority Cloud Our Decision Making?

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on..........................."

I was listening to an interview with solo rocker and former lead singer of Genesis, Phil Collins, in which he was taking stock of his life and talking about his plans.  At one point he made the observation that after three failed marriages and half dozen or so kids who've chosen not to be involved in his life, he had to come to the conclusion that:  "well you know, maybe it'"

That's actually a bold admission, because most of us naturally see things almost wholly from our own perspectives and are, at least, somewhat reluctant to lay any blame at our own doorstep for things that have gone wrong  - for decisions we have made.  Whether it's a biologically built in defense mechanism, learned social behavior, some kind of character flaw or a psychological neurosis - the bottom line is we tend to feel that our behavior, our viewpoints, our judgments are correct and that we are just a little bit smarter, wiser, more attuned, and better people than most others.  It's easier to believe that.  It makes life simpler.

I ran across a paper that suggests that: "We Are Absurdly Confident of Our Superiority".  

"Decades of psychological research reveal that, in fact, most of us strongly believe in our own superiority.  The latest evidence comes in the form of two newly published studies, which find we consider ourselves both more virtuous and less biased than others."

These two studies find most people think they are both morally superior to other people and less biased and prejudiced.  That doesn't, of course, mean people think they are omnipotent or without any fault; scions of excellence that can never be challenged.  Most people will admit they have flaws and aren't always right.  They make mistakes.  But the idea that we truly believe in our own moral superiority and believe that we are less biased than other people, logically may cloud our whole decision making process.  Most of us like to believe we are reasonable people, open to debate and other viewpoints, willing to compromise and hear other sides of things - but in truth, are we really then?

My question is how does this bias in our own favor cloud our judgments, and is that complicated by situations in which we are surrounded by people who generally share our world outlooks and reinforce our beliefs?  How, for example, does this play into the question of equity and awareness of structural racism in our sector, or in the wider society?  And on a more base level, how does this affect, color and impact even our mundane daily business decisions and the way we interact within our organizations.  If our decisions are shaded by this belief in our own "decency" superiority, does it follow that we believe that our decisions are likely better made and more considered than other people's decisions?  After all, other people are then more biased and prejudiced than we are.  Does that put us at a real disadvantage because we then have real trouble being open to other viewpoints and ideas - and, criticism or evaluation - despite our denials?

Is awareness that we are susceptible to this kind of clouding of our judgment based on some notion that we're above others, enough to overcome it and allow for the negative effect it might have on our decision making?  What might we do to minimize its negative impact across a whole spectrum of decisions we are expected to regularly make?

This maybe something to think about and discuss within the organization.  If you want to ask probing questions that might help you move your organization to a really new level, perhaps this is a good one.  The fact is that decision making is a process that is affected by countless intangibles of which we are unaware, or which we simply don't want to consider.  We all want to make well reasoned, sound and defensible decisions about everything, its in our personal and organizational best interests, but we don't spend that much time questioning the process or how we come to it.  

Have a great week.

Don't Quit