Designers rely on intuition when developing and detailing concepts but must still keep the business opportunity in mind, looking for ways of creating value. The better understanding they have of business concepts and of their assumptions, the better their intuition is for making tradeoffs and securing business success.
Including designers in developing the business opportunity not only helps them see the complete picture, it also makes them less prone to be tricked by their intuition. Recent research at Hanyang University, in Seoul, South Korea provided valuable insights into the decision biases that most commonly trick teams. Here is the list of the top ten biases, in descending order of occurrence, with suggestions on how to identify and avoid being tricked by one's intuition.
1) The "Hard-easy effect," where designers underestimate the challenge in front of them, was common for all ten teams. This type of bias was reduced when designers compared the challenge with similar past projects and divided projects into individual tasks in the scheduling phase.
2) The "Pro-innovation bias," seven of the ten teams were affected by the tendency of designers to focus on the positive sides of an innovation while neglecting to examine the negative sides. Playing the devils advocate or crowdsourcing for external input can assist the team to become aware of this particular bias and refocus the team.
3) The "Anchoring effect," where designers tend to stick with their initial idea, was a bias for six of the ten teams. Questioning the initial concept and providing alternative anchors can assist in getting them 'un-stuck' and opening the search field.
4) The "Confirmation bias," in this case, designers search for information that confirms their initial assumptions, blinding them to alternatives. Five teams exhibited this bias that can be successfully overcome by exploring "what if" questions.
5) The "Curse of knowledge," the domain-specific knowledge of the design team directs their search for solutions. Four of the teams were trapped by their knowledge in this way, a bias that can be overcome by welcoming participants with a wide range of different professions, cultural backgrounds and experience.
6) The "Availability heuristic," the tendency to overestimate the likelihood of events with greater "availability" in memory, such as recent, unusual or emotionally charged memories. Three of the teams experienced this bias, which can be overcome by first being aware of the phenomenon and then by taking a look at actual probabilities for these events.
7) The "Empathy gap," is the lack of empathy with others and, in design, this would be the users and stakeholders. Three of the teams exhibited this behavior, which can be counteracted by providing emotional stories of extreme behavior.
8) The "Conservatism bias," is the tendency to revise belief insufficiently when presented with new evidence. Two of the teams experienced this, which can be overcome by including others in the estimation of the influence they have.
9) The "Illusion of validity bias," occurs when consistent but predicatively weak data leads to overconfident predictions. Two of the teams experienced this, which again can be overcome by including others in the estimation of the evidence and its effect.
10) The "Stereotyping Bias," is when one expects a member of a group to have certain characteristics without having actual information about that individual. Two of the teams jumped into this one, which can be overcome by seeking out examples of group members with contradicting characteristics.
Intuition biases, such as these, are a part of being human as opposed to machines and we all have them to some degree. The trick is to be aware of them, helped by this checklist of the most likely candidates in design. Recognizing and avoiding these biases, can be a valuable competitive advantage and, with the New Year fast approaching, may even assist with one's New Year resolutions.
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