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Biases That Restrict Product Managers

February 16, 2023

Product management is more intricate than following one step after the other. Its true, multi-dimensional essence often lies beyond what meets the eye. One can gain a more comprehensive understanding of the situation by perpetually liberating oneself from preconceived biases. Our perceptions get shaped by our experiences, surroundings, sources of information, and the people in our immediate network. However, these biases can immensely influence, negatively affect and limit the decisions made by product managers.

Let us dive in and uncover the hidden biases that may be affecting their decisions.

Dissecting these biases will not only bring a new level of ease to the decision-making process for product managers, but it will also unveil sophisticated marketing tactics.

Confirmation bias prevails when you prefer considering information that aligns with your current opinions and disregarding information that contradicts them.

You could experience traces of confirmation bias if research results are always predictable and user research most times confirms what you already know and never challenges your assumptions. Also, when your brainstorming sessions with the team lack healthy debate. Teams typically have diverse backgrounds and opinions, making it normal to have disagreements and tension in meetings. If there is no such tension, it may indicate that everyone is too entrenched in their own beliefs.

Availability bias

This means you give more weight to information that comes to mind easily.

For example, if you get asked your opinion on which phone you like the best, you might rely on your most recent experience, which may have been positive, and downplay other phones altogether.

Availability bias is upon you if your decisions get often based on intuition rather than thoughtful consideration. For instance, you might quickly jump to the first option presented during meetings over examining all possible outcomes.

Self-serving bias

This refers to attributing unfavorable events to outside factors and taking credit for positive events.

For instance, when customer numbers increase, you might attribute it to the introduction of a new feature, but if they decrease, you attribute it to broader economic conditions.

In any project, there is always a possibility of changes occurring, and it is the responsibility of the product manager to anticipate potential risks and have a contingency plan in place. However, if the leader is the source of the problem, they are exacerbating the situation. Such leadership can negatively impact team morale, causing team members to be less likely to communicate openly and honestly, which ultimately undermines the team’s effectiveness and efficiency.

Function fixedness

This refers to the propensity to view objects as functioning in a specific manner.

For instance, you may believe that a software developer would not be able to contribute valuable insights on user experience (UX) due to their main focus on application programming interface (API) development.

More generally, individuals in specific industries or academic disciplines may find inspiration from individuals who approach the same concept from a different perspective.

False consensus effect

The concept of the false consensus effect was first introduced by Professor Lee Ross, a social psychologist in the 1970s.

It refers to a tendency for people to assume that others share their beliefs and opinions, leading them to view their perspective as being representative of the consensus. Additionally, those who disagree with them may be perceived as abnormal or inexperienced.

Product managers are frequently caught in this trap, making decisions that are solely based on their past experiences and not actual field data. Choices regarding product features, pricing, communication, design, samples, and strategies should be made based on the results of field research, not just personal experience.

Taking a few pauses is not always bad! Product managers need to recognize and not be intimidated by the presence of biases, as they can significantly impact decision-making. The key to effectively managing biases is to remain alert and conscious of their existence, and continuously work towards overcoming them through various methods such as seeking diverse sources of information, being open to new ideas, collaborating with a team, and conducting regular self-evaluations. This way, product managers can make informed and objective decisions that meet the needs of their customers and stakeholders.

Posted in Product Management
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