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how-individual-cognitive-biases-impact-decision-making-for-a-team
15 Mar 2022

How Individual Cognitive Biases Impact Decision Making For A Team

Hitting the snooze button thrice knowing full well you’ll be running late might be a conscious decision you make every morning. But, the rest of your routine - from putting on slippers to brushing your teeth in the same rhythmic strokes to tying your left shoe first; they form a part of our cognitive conditioning. Once you have repeated a task a certain number of times, your muscle memory takes over. And every time you decide to do a certain task, it all comes back like riding a bike.


Similar to cognitive conditioning, every individual brings with them a certain set of cognitive biases. Formed over the years, these biases are based on personal experiences, environmental conditioning, and information intake over time. These unconscious prejudices affect our world view and also how we interact with others. Unknown to most, these biases show up in the form of pre-formed opinions and the resulting decisions. 



Diverse Teams & Cognitive Biases

For a diverse team working on a project, to practice effective decision-making, the existing cognitive biases need to be both acknowledged and addressed, before any important decisions are made. After all, impactful decision making - whether the decision is small or big, is indispensable to high performance teams.


Thus, it is imperative for high performance teams to go through cognitive bias training and improve their individual decision making skills. Meanwhile, let’s go through the three most detrimental cognitive biases in the business world -

  1. Confirmation Bias

This refers to the human tendency to surround ourselves with facts, people, news stories that confirm our perspective on things. From our religious affinities to political loyalties, we always tend to stick to people and facts that reaffirm our worldview. This can, in turn, limit our exposure to the diverse and colourful reality of things. It also can turn us into extremists and loyalists to the point where we refuse to see the other person’s point of view.


When it comes to one’s professional life, confirmation bias can make it difficult to collaborate effectively within a team. 

  1. Loss Aversion Bias

This bias prevents people from giving up on a road leading to nowhere, simply because of the time spent traveling down the said path. Thus, loss aversion can lead managers into dragging a project that fails to prove profitable, despite time and efforts being put behind it.

This bias can also prevent leaders from evaluating a situation objectively, thereby stopping them from cutting their losses in time. 


  1. Status Quo Bias

To quote a commonly heard mantra within many organizations across industries -

yahan humesha se aisa hi hota hai’ ( we have always done it this way ) 

The status quo bias is essentially an aversion to change - be it small or big. Companies and leaders who refuse to evolve with the times and insist on sticking to their outdated practices and policies display the said bias.


An aversion to change in leaders and organizations, alike, has the power to turn obsolete and run out of the game, itself. 


How can leaders help teams discover their cognitive biases?


There are a host of team exercises that can help teams discover their cognitive biases. Cave Rescue is one such activity that can not only help your team discover their innate biases, but also find a way to work past them.


An experiential team activity, it plays out as a case study based challenge that revolves around six individuals trapped in a cave. The premise of the case study is that the entrance to a cave has fallen in, and now the team must decide in which order the six case study subjects must be rescued.  The participants are provided with adequate information on each character to help them with their decision. 


The key takeaways from this particular activity centres around the importance of effective communication skills, negotiation skills, and how teams can manage to look past their own individual biases to come to a consensus. 


Participants over the years have expressed immense surprise over the things discovered about their own innate biases. Furthermore, the discussions happening within each group can provide great insights into the leadership qualities of the different members, and their ability to sway the group towards their desired outcome. A highly engaging group activity, this challenge can help gauge and improve negotiation skills, boost interpersonal communication skills, and acknowledge individual biases.


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Let’s get the ball rolling

Picking the right program for your organization can be tough - so we’re here to help you narrow down the options. Just pick the size of your team, the type and duration of activity you’d like to organize. We’ll recommend the most effective, engaging and results-based activity for your team.

Sahil Bajaj

Co-founder Team Builders India

Sahil Bajaj is India’s best Corporate Presenter, having over 11 years of experience in the industry. He was awarded the Best Corporate Presenter & Trainer by EEMA Spotlight Award 2017. Having an extensive Television and Radio background, he heads the Business Development Unit at TBI.

Sahil Bajaj adds dynamism and flavor to team building at Team Builders India. He started really young at the age of 17 as an emcee, quickly moved up the ladder as a corporate presenter and eventually landed into Team Building and found his passion for people engagement.

He and Utsav have the power to electrify larger groups. And that is how they decided to Co-found Team Builders India.

Apart from being the lead gap-finder at Team Builders India, Sahil is also the acting COO and manages execution for all the programs.

Utsav Shukla

Dynamic Public Speaker

A dynamic public speaker & Orator. Certified Trainer. He is an Asian Debating Champion, Adjudged World’s 3rd Best Debater against Harvard, Standford and Yale University & one of the only 10 Master Trainers in India. His experience has been diverse with multiple industries like Manufacturing, FMCG, Finance, etc.

A voracious, dynamic public speaker & Orator who started training delivery at a young age of 21 with IIM Ranchi, Utsav has carved a niche for himself in the experiential learning space. He has delivered workshops for associate level workers of Maruti to the top Management of MARS Chocolates to DRDO Scientists. His experience has been diverse with multiple industries like Manufacturing, Consulting, FMCG, IT etc. Following are the top programs he delivered in the last 6 Months:

  • Covered 1800 People for Team Effectiveness Intervention for American Express, India
  • Cultural Integration Program for Budweiser Value Integration Program for Greenlam Industries
  • Sales Intervention on the theme Believe for MARS India
  • Leadership Development Program for SAP in Singapore & Malaysia
  • Workshop on “Outrageous Targets” for National Sales Team of Viacom TV 18
  • Self Effectiveness workshop for Scientists of DRDO

Utsav currently is the lead Gap Finder at Team Builders managing Projects and end to end solutions from Training Need Analysis to creating customized training solutions and managing execution of the solutions across locations.

Asif Basra

Method Actor & Theatre Session Specialist

Known for over two decades for his numerous theatre and cinema performances. Asif Basra works with clients on a one-on-one format or in small groups, inducing participants to focus their energy on the task at hand – just as adept actors are trained to do.

Theatre techniques are used to help participants to tap into their different roles and emotions. They are encouraged, through spontaneous movement, to sync their body and mind in full synergy, so as to break down their everyday conditioning and knee-jerk habituation.