“Are we headed in the right direction on our product roadmap?”
“Does our marketing message resonate with our potential audience?”
“Are these the features our customers really want?”
Making a smart decision about any question could determine the course of your company’s future.
This requires you to approach problems with as much objectivity as possible. You can consider solutions, sort them, test them, and arrive at the best solution for a given situation.
But objectivity is an illusion at best. Your biases are part of what makes you human.
You enter any situation or interaction with information and assumptions that could influence the questions you ask. And that can lead to answers that confirm your biases, giving you results that don’t help your organization test ideas, optimize messaging, monitor investments, or evaluate whether to enter a market.
So how do you ensure you’re coming up with solutions that are as free from bias as possible?
The Challenge of Unbiased Answers
The natural place you might be inclined to approach for objective insights is your organization’s brain trust. Your board, your managers, your go-to customer panels, your colleagues in the C-suite: This is the group you know you can depend on to offer the wise and unbiased counsel you really need.
Or is it? Your go-to team likely shares your organization’s interests. Many of them are very familiar with your organization and its products or services. They may be too close to the issues at hand to see past responses or to have the courage to argue for developing entirely new, creative solutions.
As smart as your team is, its members can be predisposed to believe that the untrodden road is the wrong road and instead guide you down the wide and well-lit path. But playing it safe can keep your organization stuck in the status quo—or worse, send your stock plummeting and your customers flocking to the competition.
Staying the course might leave you with even more intractable problems that you’re unsure how to solve.
This is why third-party expertise is so valuable.
It gives you the ability to get out of your company’s culture and mindset, escape your own biases and expectations, and learn from others to make smarter and truly objective decisions.
However, it’s important to choose the right third-party authorities for successful results.
Three Decision-Making Types
Larry E. Greiner and Robert O. Metzger’s Consulting to Management classifies three types of third-party specialists in strategic decision making:
1. The Expert. Specialists in this category have in-depth knowledge of specific areas. The Expert “brings specific knowledge or skills related to an industry or function which are otherwise unavailable,” according to a research paper by Todd Saxton, associate professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business.
2. The Provocateur. A specialist in this role can act as a “decision counselor.” When brought into the decision-making process early, the Provocateur can “help identify critical information needs” and “ask difficult and perhaps unanticipated questions” that might challenge the status quo, Saxton writes. Additionally, the Provocateur can:
-Provide unbiased judgment
-Present a fresh approach
-Diagnose problems and evaluate solutions
-Perform tasks with technical skills
-Supplement your institutional knowledge
3. The Legitimizer. This hybrid role combines expertise and provocation. The Legitimizer can verify or build on a hypothesis the organization believes to be true, to test it and clear a strategic decision.
Whether you bring on the Expert, the Provocateur, or a combination of both with the Legitimizer, consider how these specialists can help you overcome bias.
The Five Types of Bias
Speak to experts outside your brain trust and discover the key to your decision-making process. Another key is knowing the five types of bias and how to ensure you’re asking unbiased questions.
There are five types of bias to avoid:
- Availability bias. Humans tend to favor their most recent experiences as the most reliable, inadvertently triggering “availability bias.”
- Anchoring. This type of bias occurs when a question includes specific statements or information that leads to answers based on that information.
- Confirmation bias. Framing questions that result in answers confirming your opinions will keep you locked within your set of assumptions.
- Leading questions. Your assumptions may influence questions that guide respondents toward “correct” answers.
- Motivational bias. Because you are deeply invested in your industry, you may have some hardwired assumptions about it that may or may not be true.
Unbiased Decision Making
If you’re not trained to look for these biases, you may not be making the best decisions. That’s why it’s often best to look outside your bubble.
Companies that avoid hiring third-party specialists may be unaware of the specialists’ value, seeing their expertise not as investments but as time-consuming expenses outside their comfort zones.
But these are the very specialists who can provide unbiased, accurate data that give you the detailed information you need to grow your company and gain a competitive advantage. Can your organization afford to make its biggest decisions without them?
Find out how GLG’s network of more than 700,000 specialists can help your organization gain new insights from consultations, surveys, subject-matter experts, and more at https://glg.it.