By doing nothing more than observing and acting on the obvious, a person can change the world.
The closer we are to something, the less clearly we see it. At work, standard procedures and the daily routine do not attract our critical attention. We rarely stop to look at what is going on in our immediate environment, and question the fundamentals, and look for better ways to do things. When something works, there is little motivation to examine it and bring about change.
In fact, there may be no “best” procedures and routines, only better and better ones. The work you are doing now without thinking can always be improved. In fact, the current work may not be based on current knowledge and technology. But it somehow it still gets the job done, and so doesn’t attract attention.
But a fresh look can lead to a breakthrough.
One way to reach breakthroughs is to give permission to new hires to challenge you. They are looking at your old patterns with fresh eyes. Listen to them. What they say will give you insight into your assumptions. It will allow you to question what you thought were facts. When a new person asks questions, don’t say, “It will make sense when you have been here longer,” or, “You’ll see when you understand it better.” By saying those things, you are pushing away important insights. Those questions are valuable.
It’s unfortunate that we all have confirmation bias. We look for data to support our belief that the way we are doing something is right, is correct, is best. We push away contradicting data. Be smarter than that: find your assumptions and your biases. And once you have found them, actively look for data that contradicts them. Anything you think is true will have much data to support it and minimal data to refute it. If there is reliable data that refutes your assumption, it means you do not understand the situation with adequate depth.
As you are assessing a problem, stop yourself, look at all the data you have, and ask, “What data here doesn’t fit the pattern? What is the piece of information that is surprising me? What makes me uncomfortable?” That piece of information may lead you to an insight, or at least a new hypothesis about what is going on in your environment.
Another way to find an assumption or a bias is to watch for your emotional reaction while reading. When you read something uncomfortable and frightening, that’s a clue that it holds a lesson. Stop and think about it. Because true learning is not necessarily a comfortable process. If during your process of learning you always feel safe, you are not doing it right. Your assumptions and biases give you comfort, and looking into the unknown, and finding new things, can be quite uncomfortable.
We need to be open to reviewing and challenging the assumptions we’re working off of, rather than working with a confirmation bias.