At breakfast recently, one of my sons was saying that his classmates would be on good behaviour that week.

The reason?

Thursday that week was scheduled to be the day for parent-teacher meetings.  And my son said the students were going to behave well so that their teachers would talk more positively about them when the teachers met with us parents.

If the pupils thought that they could influence the teachers with their behaviour, they were exhibiting a phenomenon called recency bias.

If the pupils were correct, the teachers too would be exhibiting recency bias.

What is this recency bias?  It’s when we attach a disproportionately large importance to recent events.  It’s just one example of a cognitive bias – a predisposition towards flawed thinking.

The causes of these biases?  One reason is that our taxed brains seek to use shortcuts to conserve energy in order to accelerate decision-making.  But to be honest, I don’t know enough to talk authoritatively about the causes.

But one thing’s for sure.  You are prone to cognitive biases, including recency bias.  And the reason is simple – you’re human!

If this flawed thinking is natural, what can you do about it?

One is to educate yourself on the common fallacies and biases.  Every day you’re above ground gives you a chance to learn more.

Another way to mitigate against flawed thinking?

You won’t like what I have to say if you’re a precious snowflake.  Neither will you like it if you’re arrogant. 

But here goes: Get yourself a business confidante.  Someone strong enough to hold up a mirror to you without needing to soften everything they say.  Someone whom you want to challenge you.  Someone who has emotional detachment from your business so that they can first see with clear eyes and then tell you what they see without fear of repercussion.

Yeah, it can be difficult hearing truths.  It can be challenging to be asked those questions that rock you, that make you pause and reflect, that really make you think.  But it’s worth it.  As Barack Obama, in his final press conference as President, said to journalists: “You’re not supposed to be sycophants, you’re supposed to be skeptics, you’re supposed to ask me tough questions.” 

(What a contrast to the insecure bully who succeeded him…)

Have you such a business confidante?  Use them!

If you don’t, I strongly encourage you to get one.

If money is tight, you may be able to set up some sort of reciprocal arrangement with someone where you help each other.

Alternatively, you may wish to get the help of a specialist in this area.

If that’s you, email me and we’ll quickly determine if I’m the right person to help you.