Monday, June 3, 2013

Worldviews, Villains, and Decisions

I’ve been spending a lot of time reading about and considering the subject of worldviews – what they are, where they come from, and how they affect our day-to-day lives. As Chip Heath and Dan Heath point out in Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, a worldview is how we interpret the world, how we make sense of it, and how we make decisions to live and work in it.

One problem with a worldview is that we tend to seek out information that agrees with our worldview, and filter out the information that doesn’t. Consider how seriously informed you would be if you got all of your information on the Obama Administration from either Rush Limbaugh or Chris Matthews – a steady diet of ridicule or chills running up your leg.

If we all did that, we would end up with a national government that was so polarized that nothing would get done.

OK, I’m trying to make a point here, because that’s exactly what we do have.

But it’s not just government. Think about how a worldview can affect a workplace, a church, or a relationship, simply by filtering our information that doesn’t conform to what we already believe.

The Heaths would say, and I would agree, that desperately holding on to a worldview at the expense of reality will, at a minimum, lead to bad decisions.

In the book, the call this “conformation bias,” and individuals and organizations do it all the time. It’s one of the “four villains of decision making” they describe in Decisive. The other three are narrow framing, or unduly limiting your options; relying on short-term emotions (if you’re upset, always chill before making a decision); and overconfidence, or having too much faith in our own predictions (and we all do this).

They’re not saying you have to jettison your basic beliefs if you want to make good decisions. But they do say that you should question why you react or respond in certain ways, and examine exactly why you believe one decision or course of action is better than another.

It could be that you confirmation bias – your worldview – is showing.

Can you think of an example of when the worldview an individual, a company, an organization, or a nation led to disaster? (There are some obvious ones – Nazi Germany – and some not-so-obvious ones – like Enron.)

Over at The High Calling, Laura Boggess is leading the book discussion this month on Decisive. A post will be published each Monday in June (and I’m guest-posting on the book next week). To view the discussion and the comments, please visit The High Calling.

Photograph by Petr Kratochvil via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.


Nancy said...

Imagine a national government being that polarized! You have used a powerful example of how confirmation bias shapes one's thinking. And I think the opportunities for me to reinforce my own biases are probably more prevalent than I realize. Once I installed satellite radio in my car, I realized I never had to listen to anything other than what I already liked. I could listen to any particular genre of music--country, classical, contemporary Christian--anything I wanted, without ever having to expose myself to something different or new. Fortunately, I have a teenage son who is willing to change my presets occasionally and at least give me the opportunity to challenge my preconceived preferences and opinions!

One of the things I appreciate about the blogosphere is that I am exposed to differences in presuppositions and worldviews, especially among other believers. At their best, when not descending into nastiness, these conversations do allow me to examine my beliefs and test them without necessarily jettisoning my core convictions.

I like this post, Glynn. A lot of wisdom and maturity here.

Laura Boggess said...

The Heath brothers' discussion on confirmation bias is a great exercise for anyone, I think. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out I have my pet views. The numbers the authors give on failed business acquisitions is telling. I want to make better choices. So I'll keep reading :)

Rick Dawson said...

Funny. I'd never heard of the book before this - I put up a post on the subject back in May at that was building for two years while I wasn't blogging. It took listening to some of the comments around the town I live in now to force it back up and onto the page :)

Glad to have found this blog - good stuff up for discussion here! Thanks, Glynn!