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Overcoming Cognitive Roadblocks On the Road to Innovation

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By:
Elliott Wilkins

The
Power of Persuasion

Being persuasive, is useful to everybody at
some point or another in his or her life. This can often be challenging,
whether you are trying to convince your child to brush their teeth, or attempting
to persuade an entire business unit to adhere to a new recycling policy. In
both these cases the advice is mutually beneficial, however because the reward
is not imminently obtainable it can be difficult to get people to listen.
When it comes to implementing innovation at
an organisation, there are many people who need to be persuaded, and
understanding the psychological mechanics behind this can be very useful. This
article will highlight the issues of 'cognitive bias' and 'bounded rationality'
as outlined by Daniel Kahneman, Amos Tversky, and Herbert A. Simon, and discuss
how these issues can impede upon decision-making and innovation.
The
Storm at Sea

Technological disruptions continue to
create waves that are being felt across all vertical markets, and the
collaborative economy is undeniably here, however many organisations are less
than willing to embrace this natural evolution of communication. Firms that
have enjoyed a position of relative market security are less aware of the
danger, and it is the management and shareholders at many of these firms who
must urgently be convinced to take action.
There are some vessels on the edges of this
storm that might be able to stay afloat with a minimal amount of effort. However
with effective persuasion, every captain and crew can take action that will
steer their respective ships towards safety and prosperity. The most innovative
captains already know, that there is always room for an extra sail to be added
to the mast of the ship.
All-Aboard!
Convincing the Captains

When any problem is noticed, the first
people who need to be informed are those is in a position to take action. With
regard to business, it is the managers, chief executives and decision-makers
who must take the first steps towards making a change. First of all these
individuals need to be convinced  that a
solution is necessary, however more importantly they need to be persuaded to
participate in the solution once it is implemented.
A survey
of global business executives
from 2007 discovered that a successful
innovation initiative is defined by leadership participation; there was a
strong correlative relationship between a lack of leadership engagement and a
lack of success. This shows clearly how important it is to persuade managers
and executives to 'jump on board' when it comes to innovation.
Convincing
the Crew

Once a solution has been decided upon by
management, it almost always relies upon subordinate participation for it to be
successful. Employee engagement is an issue that has been well documented
recently, and it is an especially crucial factor when instilling a new business
process.
Human resource managers are well equipped
to prepare employees for changes within an organisation, and these specialists
should be fully utilized whenever possible. However, when a HR representative
is lacking, it is the responsibility of all managers to lead by example.
Ensuring that employees are ready to embrace the change rather than resist will
allow an invaluable innovation culture to flourish.
Cognitive
Bias: 
Theorizing
Bias

Israeli-American Psychologist, Daniel
Kahneman, has outlined over the last few decades a multitude of pitfalls that
can pose a risk to anyone who is attempting to make a decision. These pitfalls,
which he refers to collectively as 'cognitive bias', are especially relevant in
business where decision-making is the crux of both success and failure.
There is no legitimate way to force people
into believing that you are right, and it is always worth considering that you
might very well be wrong. However there are some psychological roadblocks that
it is useful to be aware of, when it seems as though the laws of logic are not
being followed.
Combating
'Confirmation Bias'

'Confirmation Bias' is a bias towards
information that affirms pre-existing ideas or experiences, and causes a
distrust of new options. This can potentially occur when describing a new
initiative to a colleague or employee for the first time. If there is a
pre-existing framework that a new proposal clashes with, then the individual
will potentially disregard the new idea without giving it a chance. Many people
are subconsciously adverse to disruption, and so this can be a big
stumbling-block when it comes to convincing both the 'captain' and the 'crew."
An interesting way of tackling the issue of
confirmation bias is to present an argument 'disfluently'. A
study
at the University of Illinois in 2012, identified that confirmation
bias is 'attenuated' when the idea is presented to the individual in a way that
is difficult to interpret. This might seem counter intuitive, but when someone
is required to put effort into understanding a concept, they are sometimes more
likely to be objective and rational in their analysis of it.
For example, 'innovation' is a buzzword
that may cause some people to reject a proposal without fully considering its
benefits. However if they were to hear an explanation that does not step on
this verbal landmine, then they may well see things differently. This technique
is about using diversion to give somebody a new perspective on an idea, and for
this reason it can be very effective.
Heuristics: Bounded
Rationality

'Most humans are only partly rational' is
the postulation of Cognitive Psychologist, Herbert A. Simon, who also argues
that making the 'correct' decision is almost always inhibited by one of three
factors: Cognitive ability, information availability and temporal availability.
He argued that to make decisions in circumstances such as these where
rationality is bounded, many people use shortcuts which he referred to as 'heuristics.'
The term 'heuristic' was borrowed by H. A.
Simon from the field of computer science, where it is used to describe a problem
solving technique that prioritizes speed over accuracy. While this methodology
may be useful in computer science, its application in matters of business
should be drawn into question.
Contagion
Heuristic

When making a decision, people will often
look at the history of the person, item, or company in question and reach
illogical conclusions based on this information. For example in sport, it is
very common to make judgements about players based on their association with a
certain team, rather than their actions. While this has come to be expected
considering the competitive nature of sport, it is undeniably an irrational way
of formulating an opinion.
This guilty-by-association fallacy can
swing both ways, as something can also be great-by-association. When discussing
the merit of a company, it is common-practice to look at their previous
customers and form an initial judgement based upon that list. While this can
sometimes be a useful way of ascertaining the strengths of an organisation, it
is not necessarily indicative of a superior or inferior product.
This issue can be complicated, as sometimes
a great-by-association heuristic can work in your favour. However if you take
advantage of this circumstance in order to promote an idea that you are
personally invested in, then you yourself are committing a form of cognitive
bias by allowing your idea to evade rational evaluation.
Availability
Heuristic

The 'availability heuristic' affects
millions of people across the world every day; some of them are afraid of
sharks while surfboarding, some believe that is worth buying a lottery ticket.
The theory is that an event seems a lot more likely to occur, when you perceive
examples of someone experiencing the consequences of the event.  People are often more easily persuaded by the cognitive
availability of a single relatable story, rather than statistical probability.
This technique might not always be easy to
incorporate into a business proposal, however if it is possible then it can be
very effective. So while it is always good to also have numbers on your side
when preparing an argument, it is wise to remember that humans innately
prioritize emotional evidence over numerical evidence.
Weathering
the Storm, 
Revolutionising
Sailing

In 1902 a German ship called 'The Preu'en' revolutionized
sailing
by utilising steam power to assist in the handling of winches,
hoists and pumps. This made every process much easier and reduced the required
number of crewmen from 257 to just 48. This is comparable to the benefit that
can be achieved through the company-wide use of an innovation management
platform.
Innovation software such as this does
not act as an extra sail on the ship itself, but instead identifies potential
new sails that can be added, while simultaneously increasing the efficiency of
all existing sails and crewmen upon the ship. The benefits can be far reaching;
whether the platform is utilised to exploit technological disruption and
identify new revenue streams, or to make crucial cost-savings through
incremental process improvement.
Cruising
to Safety

There are a variety of initiatives that
organisations can undertake in order to combat market disruption and achieve
continued success. Consultants can be hired, strategies can be made, and funds
can be redistributed; but the results of these actions are usually confined to
a specific department, business unit or geography. Innovation management can
provide universal benefit.
Innovation is invariably at the source of
the turmoil that is leaving many companies bankrupt, so the logical solution
for organisations who are in danger is to fight fire with fire, and develop
innovative practices themselves. Innovation leads to maximized productivity,
efficiency, and profit, and an innovation management platform facilitates this
by harnessing the collective intelligence of any target audience.
Whoever needs to be persuaded, and whatever
they need to be persuaded of, it is useful to bear in mind the theories and
techniques outlined in this article. This is not intended to be a cheat-sheet
to getting what you want, or a 101 in hypnosis, but instead a propagation of objective
rational decision-making and healthy discourse. If everyone is able to understand
and overcome these hurdles then the world will be a much happier, healthier,
and wealthier place.
To discover more about 'cognitive bias' see
here.
For 'bounded rationality' see here.
For 'innovation management' see here.

About
the Author: Elliott is a Commercial Manager and Marketing Assistant at Qmarkets; a company that provides fully
configured Innovation Solutions to organisations across the globe. Born in
Birmingham, he graduated with a degree in Journalism and Media Studies from
Bangor University in 2013, and is passionate about communication, culture, and
'the great outdoors.' He can be reached at ewilkins@qmarketsglobal.com or @Qmarketsglobal on twitter.

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