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Confirmation Bias: The Worst of Humanity

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation BiasWhy is the Pocketblog writing about ‘the worst of humanity’? Because nothing is fixed. But if you don’t know how Confirmation Bias works, you are powerless to deal with it.

Confirmation Bias is just one of many cognitive biases and thinking traps our giant, yet lazy, brains are prey to. But it is the one that is responsible for the most ills in the world. And it is also responsible for bad judgments in business, politics, and public administration.

So, we think it falls very much within the scope of our Big Ideas series. Unless you understand the big idea of what confirmation bias is, you cannot take it on with the simple tools that are available to you.

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Action Learning: L=P+Q

Action Learning

Action LearningAction Learning is, quite simply, the best way to learn. Especially if what you want to learn is less ‘learning that’, and more ‘learning how’.

Reg Revans started life as a physicist. His Big Idea was to apply the way scientists deal with problems to create a way for managers to learn. And he called his process Action Learning.

Let’s understand what Action Learning is, how it works, and why it is so good.

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Memes: Ideas that Spread and Evolve

Memes: Ideas that Spread and Evolve

Memes: Ideas that Spread and EvolveNo. An article on memes is not an excuse to re-post a bunch of funny internet memes. We’re more grown-up boring than that, here at Management Pocketbooks.

And it’s not as if we think you don’t know what a meme is. Of course you do. So, why have we made it the subject of one of our Big Ideas articles?

Because a meme is an idea that sticks around. It is a Big Idea!

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Scientific Method

Scientific Method

Scientific MethodThere is no bigger idea than science. So, in this UN International Year of the Periodic Table, I want to celebrate what makes science so powerful: the almost equally big idea of the Scientific Method.

For managers, I’d sum up its utility with a quote from an old friend, Tony Quigley:

The alternative to evidence-based policy-making is policy-based evidence-making’

If you want your organisational decisions to carry heft and deliver results, you can do no better than to apply the scientific method to your management practices.
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Systems Thinking

Systems Thinking

Systems ThinkingSystems thinking is a big idea that’s remarkably… simple.

It’s a simple idea about complex phenomena. And the principle virtue of systems thinking is that it reminds us that the real world is far from simple.

Indeed, when we try to apply simple solutions to complex problems, the solution tends to fail: often spectacularly. And it’s systems thinking that points us in the right direction. We need to think about the whole messy, complex, inter-connected system, if we are to have any chance of finding a solution that makes our problem better.

If only politicians could grasp this simple fact.

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The Pareto Principle | The 80-20 Rule

The Pareto Principle | The 80-20 Rule

The Pareto Principle | The 80-20 RuleThe Pareto Principle – also known as the ’80-20 Rule’ – is one of those ideas that crops up in many places. It is ubiquitous because it is an expression of a general principle of nature. It is an example of a power law. Extremely long rivers are rare. Small ones are very common. A small number of words appear frequently within a language, whilst there are very many words that we hardly use at all.

But what makes the Pareto Principle a valuable version of this phenomenon is that it is easy to articulate and understand. And it is therefore easy for managers to apply, to get better results. Consequently, since Joseph Juran rediscovered and named the idea in the 1930s, it has become an indispensable snippet of knowledge, for anyone in management.

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Lateral Thinking – How not to think Vertically

Lateral Thinking

Lateral ThinkingSome big ideas have become commonplace, and everyone understands them. Others have become commonplace terms, which  we often misuse. Lateral Thinking is one example of the latter. Yet it’s had a big impact over the last fifty years and will, I suspect, continue to do so over the next fifty.

Lateral Thinking is the brainchild of Maltese thinker and educator, Edward de Bono. It first appeared in his short 1967 book, ‘The Use of Lateral Thinking’. And it’s currently still in print, as ‘Lateral Thinking: An Introduction’ (US|UK). But since then, he’s written a whole library on this and related topics.

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The Halo Effect

The Halo Effect
The Halo Effect
The Halo Effect

The thing about cognitive biases is their pervasiveness. They can affect all areas of our thinking. But some have a bigger impact on management, leadership, and business decisions. And one example is the Halo Effect.

The halo effect can take a single example of excellence, and create the impression that we have a star in our midst. This could be company results, an effective middle manager, or a new hire.

With all of these, we have the ability to see something great and assume it is part of a pattern. The evidence for this may be lacking. Indeed, it may be a one-off hot-spot in a field of mediocrity.

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The Black Swan Effect

The Black Swan Effect
The Black Swan Effect
The Black Swan Effect

Black Swan is a movie that follows the story of a ballerina in a New York ballet company. Her life is consumed with dance.

Oops. Wrong Black Swan.

The Black Swan is a book that sets out the nature and impact of rare, improbable events. The author, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, coined the metaphor of Black Swan to describe them.

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System 1 and System 2

System 1 and System 2
System 1 and System 2
System 1 and System 2

In understanding how we think, one big idea has dominated in recent years. It became widely known through Daniel Kahneman‘s phenomenal best-seller, Thinking, fast and slow. It’s the idea that we process information in two ways. There are two parallel thinking systems in our minds: System 1 and System 2.

There are many terms for these two systems. They have been called:

  • associative and rule-based
  • implicit and explicit
  • intuitive and analytical
  • experiential and rational
  • and many more

The terms System 1 and System 2 are marvellously neutral. They first emerged in a paper by Keith Stanovich and Richard West. But it’s Kahneman’s adoption of this language and the popularity of his book that gave them fame.

Continue reading System 1 and System 2

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