When I first saw this picture, I was 100% certain it was an old woman in profile, with protruding chin and nose.
And that’s what the drawing is. But, as I later came to find out, it’s also a picture of a young woman, turned away, sporting a necklace. Even as it was explained to me, how the lines intersected to form neck, nose, eyelash, I still could not see the young woman in the picture.
We all see with our own frames. Our frames come from our unique experiences, values, and cultures. These are mental constructs we use to simplify complexity. Frames filter what we see and appear to represent a complete reality, but in fact do not. And once you see something a certain way, it can be exceedingly difficult to see it any other way.
Conflating our frames with “the truth” creates problems in decision-making. For example, we make a snap judgment about something and then gather and interpret evidence to support that view, a phenomenon called “confirmation bias”. Or we define a challenge too narrowly, from our singular perspectives, and end up solving the wrong problem, overlooking potential solutions, and jumping to the wrong conclusions.
Another blind spot in decision-making is overconfidence. Good decision-making requires knowing the limits of our knowledge. We need to understand what we know, what others might know to fill our gaps, and what no one knows. This means admitting the level of uncertainty we’re dealing with and preparing to be wrong with the decisions we make.
We also tend to over-look “noise”, or the variability that results when we make value judgements. For example, you can consult several different doctors on the same issue and get a different opinion from each of them. Relying on just a few loud opinions is noisy. You’ll make better decisions if you crowd-source and use either consensus or the average “robust” opinion to decide. See here for more information on the power of group decisions.
And finally, we can be high jacked by emotion which clouds our judgment. This leads some of us to shoot from hip, and the rest of us to undertake analysis paralysis.
Luckily, there are many proven tactics you can employ to manage these blind spots. Want to learn more about high quality decision-making? Join ISSP’s leadership training webinar on decision-making, July 23rd, 1 PM EST.