Product Owners – Identifying hidden biases


Recently I was one of the judges in an internal Hackathon ideas presentation competition. Here we judge the presenters on their ability to pitch perfectly. One idea we heard was from two rookies who spoke something about building some communication technology to avoid car to car collisions. We kind of heard it acknowledged it as a good idea and let it pass. For the record this team did not win the pitch making award.

A week went by and I came across the following article

Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communications Will Save Lives on the Road | MIT Technology Review

This article hit me and hit me very hard. It is not because of the article or the technology, but my failure to recognize a good idea or even acknowledge it. I am very positive that the rookies who presented this idea had no clue about the MIT insider article. They were more presenting it out of their convictions and spontaneity.

I guess I played a role in killing their spontaneity. That set me thinking and I kind of present here my own internal thought processes and biases on how I have been killing ideas over the years.

  • Immediate Relevance
  • Need for External Validation
  • Confirmation Bias
  • Outside the core

Immediate Relevance

On a lighter note, though living in the present is being advocated by spiritual masters, it comes with an opportunity cost of recognizing ideas that shall have an impact in the future. I am so consumed either by what I can do or what I can do in the next three months or possibly in the next one year, I kind of tend to overlook ideas that I possibly cannot realize immediately. But, do not all good or great things take time? How can I begin to be less myopic?

Need for External Validation

I suppose that this bias is more of a country specific DNA. I feel good only when someone else possibly says that I am good and over a period of time this becomes conditioned heavily into my system that I begin to compromise on my conviction, which I believe is a prime factor for nurturing any kind of idea. If I had not seen the MIT article mentioned above, possibly this thought process would have remained dormant in me

Confirmation Bias

I think when it comes to pushing ideas I suffer from this bias. It has to possibly subconsciously appeal to beliefs I hold are true. Having being primed in certain frame of thinking for years, it is impossible for me to accept something that is outside my frame of reference , accept it and promote it. Any idea that is outside my frame of reference seems to have the first predetermined response as ‘This will not work’

Outside the Core

The word ‘Core Competency’ is so heavily drilled into all of us including me, be it personal core competency or organizational core competency. If any idea falls outside the realm of these competencies I naturally seem to be threatened and start to reject the ideas saying that is outside our core competency. In a fast changing world, where the only certain thing of tomorrow is that the sun shall rise (Does the sun rise?), should we be so stuck to our core competencies or should we adapt?

As a product manager, owner, decision maker, facilitator, mentor or anyone in any capacity what do you think?

Do you have your biases?

What are your hidden biases?

What do you today to set aside your personal prejudices?

How do you create a culture where these biases can be overcome?

I will set out to answer some of these questions the next time around, but I would love to hear from you.

Have fun.

They tried to bury us, but they didn’t know that we were seeds – Mexican Proverb


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