Successful leaders need to challenge their views not seek confirmation


A blog post by Professor Russell Walker from the Kellogg School of Management of Northwestern University argues that “living in a bubble” is a challenge for sound decision-making and leadership. Professor Walker suggests CEOs and corporate leaders need to “get out of their bubble” and challenge what they think they know about their business and customers.

Professor Walker suggests that leaders seek out “disconfirming information”. He says that building analytical models that are influenced by confirmation bias and that do not search for disconfirming information lead to bad results –- be it with big data or small data. Leaders should not seek reasons why they are right, but rather examine how they might be wrong.

The post also highlights the importance of knowing your customer. CEOs and business leaders need to get close to their customers and know what they want, think, and believe. Rarely does your customer or employee tell you what is wrong. It takes work and deliberate effort to learn from them.

Leaders are recommended to challenge their perspective. Professor Walker says that proving yourself right is not as valuable as examining other theories as alternatives. He believes that insights come from challenging prevailing wisdom, ideas, and perspectives.

“Humble yourself and re-examine your ideas; it will make you a better decision maker,” he says.

Staying in head office is easy. Walking the floor, meeting your employees, getting to know them in person, and getting to know your customers is work. For business leaders, it is easy to remain in a safe bubble and to support yourself with people that think just like you. It is a commitment to leadership and discovery to move outside of the bubble. Consider ideas with an open mind and look for insights that reveal surprises and discoveries in data and daily life.

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