Listen as we discuss cognitive bias and other ways the ego can get in the way of making the best decision for your company.
Speaker 1: Welcome to the JMARK Business Innovation Technology experience.
Todd: Welcome everybody to our episode this week. For those of you joining us on Facebook and those of you joining us at a later time on our podcast, welcome. And today I think we have a fun topic, a pretty insightful topic, I believe. A few days ago, Dax and I were talking about technology, and we were talking about the fear of change. Because we’ve had so many experiences in the last year where due to COVID and due to other reasons, companies are slow to making a decision about technology. And whether that’s a technology change to a new provider or just making technology changes that they know they need to make in the organization.
And we were talking about how this fear of the perception of the change or this fear of the potential pain of the change prevents people from making the decision. And I had an epiphany while we were talking and I realized because I was putting myself in the shoes of these people or these business owners, trying to imagine how I would feel. And I realized that the problem is really an ego problem. Because if I, as a CEO of an organization, three years ago, I made a decision to sign an agreement or two years ago, whatever, sign an agreement with a manage service provider.
And I probably explained to the organization, I probably explained to the leadership of the organization why we were doing this, why we were making this move, how it was going to be helpful for us, how it was going to make us more successful. And now we’re to a point where, okay, now I have to make this other decision because we’re changing providers. But that means my decision a few years ago was wrong and I’m looking like the bad guy.
And oftentimes the business owners, they are hoping for things to get better. They maybe have a bad relationship with an IT provider and things are just not going well. There’s problems on the network and the systems, employees aren’t being as productive because of technology and there’s frustration. But maybe there’s an existing relationship. And maybe there’s hope that things are going to improve and get better. But we’ve seen this time and time again where the CEO will just continue to hold out hope that things are going to get better. They will live with mediocrity instead of swallowing it and saying, “We need to make a different choice.”
Dax: Yeah. That’s one of those unwritten rules of life that we all understand is that things do not get better if you don’t act. Just waiting never makes things better. But this fear of admitting we were wrong or fear of the unknown holds us back. And it all comes back to ego because we want to be in control and we don’t want to let go of our ego and let go of any little bit of control. You’re exactly right, Todd, things are not going to get better until people face up to that and make a change.
And I think that the next important thing, Christina and I were talking about this last night actually, is that when we do get caught up in our own ego like that, we’re only looking at the effect it’s having on us. And you’re not looking at the wider picture, the effect it’s having on your business, on your employees and the way that it’s holding you back. And you stop looking at the progress that could be made because you get so laser-focused on this problem that’s happening right now and this fear of making that change and admitting that you need to do something wrong.
And it’s a strange thing because, I have also rarely been in a situation where I’ve seen anybody truly be upset at another person for admitting they were wrong and admitting I was wrong and now I have a plan to do something to try to fix it.
Todd: Yeah. I mean, we’re living in one of the times right now that things are moving so fast. There is technology changing at a pace faster than any time in the history of the world. And I’m not talking about the time like the decade we are in or the generation we’re in, I’m talking about this year. I mean, COVID has sped up digital transformation, it’s sped up the need for greater security, IT security.
I mean, the security threats have gone up something like 20 fold and things are just moving so, so fast. And the potential for a recession and companies that are struggling through this time, there’s just so much adaptation and change happening. And it’s no time to have an ego trip.
And I don’t think we think of it that way. I don’t think there’s something going on in an executive’s head going, “I made a bad decision back then and it’s going to look bad on me,” but we’re talking about high performing individuals, this type A individual that is trying to do what’s best and trying to work as hard as they can and trying to make things better. And I think they ultimately sabotage the organization because they’re not looking at what is best for the company, what is best for the employees, what is best to make the company go faster and innovate better and produce more.
Instead it’s, “Well, let me save this relationship. See if this relationship will work out, see if things will get better, see if whatever will change.” And it’s mediocrity. I mean, it’s like you said, Dax, it’s total mediocrity to expect that you’re going to have different results by doing the same thing.
Christina: Yeah, you both mentioned something that struck a chord with me. I think Dax talked about how some CEOs do view it through the lens of, “I made a bad choice and that’s going to look bad on me if I changed my mind on it.” And that reminded me of something that we talked about yesterday, which is, don’t get caught up on that because what everyone else is going to remember is that you did change and made a good choice and made their lives better.
Todd: Yeah. And it goes back to experience. People often associate bad experience with other things. And if that bad experience is the technology, you’re trying to get something done for you, the organization, you’re trying to make things happen and all of a sudden your computer freezes and things happen and you can’t access the data you need. Then of course that’s what you’re going to remember. And they’re going to associate that negative experience possibly with the company that is providing the IT services or the individuals, if it’s an internal IT, or possibly with the person that made the decision, which is the CEO.
But if the executives make the decision that, “We want to improve the employee experience, we want to make people more productive, more successful,” they’re going to, again, associate that positive experience with the person who made the decision and the person providing the services. So, there’s a lot of interesting psychology going to effect there.
Dax: Yeah. People by and large remember the most recent thing. I mean, that sounds dumb to say that because it sounds so obvious, but it’s true. So, that pain that people are feeling it’s holding you back and that’s the serious problem. The less serious problem is that people are looking for someone to blame, as soon as the change happens and things get better, people are also looking for someone to give credit to. And that’s what they’ll remember is, oh, the pain will soon be forgotten because they’ll be moving on and things will be moving on.
And then we get to the big effect, which is happy people with good technology doing better work and moving your business forward. And I think that that’s the thing you have to focus in on is that ultimately that’s the goal. The goal is to move your business forward and to empower your people to do good work and empower your business to have successful results. And that that’s what you need to hold on to that you need to make these changes and you need to be constantly looking and trying to improve anything that’s going to be able to help improve your business.
Todd: Yeah. I love what you said about the finger pointing. There’s always two fingers pointing in multiple directions, whether the problem is good or whether the problem is bad. And it’s so true that we have to focus on what will make our organization more successful. And that’s true in all parts of an organization and you shouldn’t think of it… We just talked about it a second ago, having this experience, they’re going to associate the good experience with potentially the good decision.
But in the end it’s not about ego. It’s not about being right or being wrong. It’s about doing what’s best for the organization. And having employees that have a better experience with technology is always better for the organization because it increases morale, increases productivity, increases the velocity of the organization. Having technology that is successfully applied in the organization speeds up things. It increases the velocity of the organization, it allows you to produce products, produce services, and in the end you can take all of the emotion out of it, you can take all of the ego out of it, you can take all of the relationship out of it. And those are important, but in the end, it’s about the success. It’s about the people and that’s why we promote people first technology second.
Christina: Exactly. When you say it’s about the people, I think if a leader who’s made this decision does have their ego involved, it can be easy to stick with their original thought and ignore the people. But it’s very important. Listen to your people. If they’re telling you they’re having a bad experience, you need to listen. And this reminds me of, we’ve talked about, I think in a previous podcast, about cognitive biases. So, confirmation bias is in a bad situation your mind is going to ignore some of the red flags in order to confirm that you’ve made the right decision. Very interesting.
Dax: Yeah. Yeah. I’m extremely fascinated by these cognitive biases. And just for anybody watching you can find, we have an article or we have articles about six different cognitive biases on our blog at jmark.com. And it’s fascinating to me because you had mentioned earlier, Todd, how people might get caught up in their own mind and caught up with this worrying about where the blame is going to go or whatever, that in and of itself is a bias. Because often that’s one of those which would then be called attentional bias. Because often people aren’t paying as much attention to us as we think they are.
And so, people are worried about their technology. They’re not worried about the who and stuff. And so that can be a bias that’s holding us back. And like you just mentioned, Christine, that a confirmation bias that makes us ignore these red flags. And our mind confirms in a situation and wants to confirm that we made a good decision, and so it’s going to ignore the red flags once they start happening and instead try to grasp onto any little thing that they can say, “Hey, good job. Pat you on the back, Dax, you did a good thing.”
Christina: Yeah. Another bias that goes right along with that is choice supportive bias. So, once a decision is made, people tend to over-focus on its benefits and minimize its flaws.
Todd: I was going back and I’m going to come back around to the bias. I was thinking about the situation we’re in with COVID, and the economy, and the different things that are happening in different industries. And there is a tendency with anybody when they’re making it, well, not anybody, but oftentimes when you’re making a decision to, especially when the outlook or the future looks uncertain to hold back and make very small, little decisions or make or not to make a decision at all.
And Christina, you could probably tell me what bias this falls under, but essentially I think it’s really important. And it goes a little bit back to ego in a sense that you’re responsible for the success of an organization. If you make a big investment or you make a big change, that is a risk or liability that you’re going to have to pay for or you’re going to have to deal with.
But in a world where technology is changing at a breathtaking pace, we have to take risks that are good for the organization. And when technology is improving the competitiveness of your company or your competitors are using technology to improve their products, and their services, and their customer experience and you’re holding back because you’re afraid of making the wrong decision, then ultimately that is a little bit of an ego problem, but it’s that investment of, and that thought of technology done right, technology when it’s applied right just increases the velocity of the organization. It makes so many things better. It affects just about everything in a company.
I mean, the morale, the connectedness, the collaboration, the profits, the productization, the customer experience. All of these things go into the success of the organization. And when somebody makes a decision that, “Technology is so-so right now, but it’s not super bad. It’s not the thing that’s really holding us back. It’s really the economy. It’s really COVID, it’s really something else,” Well, you’re burying yourself. You’re drowning in these excuses and preventing yourself from taking a move that you might think is risky, but is actually an investment towards the success of your company and that will separate you from your competition.
Dax: Yeah. I think history has shown that in times when times get tough like this, the companies that get the furthest ahead by the end when economies recover and stuff, are the companies who were not conservative during their time in the recession or the downtime of a hard time or whatever. And I want to be careful about that because I know there are companies out there that are struggling-
Todd: Sensitive, yeah.
Dax: … and that their only option is to hold back and regroup and figure things out. But I think that the lesson here is that that regrouping should only be a first step. You have to make sure that that regrouping doesn’t become your mindset because that’s when you get stuck in this constant regrouping. “Well, we’re going to get to it just when things get a little bit better.” And then things get a little bit better and you’re like, “Well, when things get a little more better.”
And you can get into this cycle of fear-based decision making that does holds you back. And the other part I wanted to speak to of what you just talked about, Todd, is, you talked about risks. And anytime you make a decision there’s always going to be some level of risk, different levels. But you can, of course, manage those levels of risks in your decision making and by gathering as much information. And hopefully what we’ve been doing with this podcast, if people are listening regularly, that’s helping them make these decisions. That’s why we’re doing this. That’s why we’ve got all kinds of articles on our blog posts, eBooks, and everything on our website because we want people to have that information that empowers them to make a decision that is ultimately less risky because it’s more informed.
Christina: Well, if we’re talking technology too, I think it’s important that people realize it’s very possible, you are being way riskier by not making a new decision, by staying in your current environment.
Todd: Yeah, this is exactly what I was attempting to say. It’s the not making a decision is often worse than making a decision, depending on what that decision is. The other thing too that I think is important is, we started off talking about this ego idea that a mistake was made, but I think what a lot of CEOs and business owners need to realize is that it’s possible that a mistake wasn’t made, it’s possible that you’ve outgrown your current situation, you’ve outgrown your internal IT staff, or you’ve outgrown your outsourced technology provider.
You may have outgrown even the technology that is in your network. I mean, there are different levels of technology that are needed for different size of organizations and depending on what you do. And it’s so important in this to put all these things aside, ego, and relationships, and whatnot and just determine, is it time to level up? Do we need to mature on our technology side as we have as an organization?
And I think that’s pretty important to remember that it’s not always a bad decision and we’re not trying to say you’re making a bad decision if you don’t do such and such. But it could just be that your company has outgrown their technology, outgrown their technology services or whatnot, and they need to mature.
Dax: Yeah. And that’s a good problem to have. That’s the problem everybody should want to have if you’re going to have a problem is the problems that come along with growth. And it is, I mean, ultimately that does come back to ego, though. We have had discussions with other companies who are afraid to make that change because they don’t want to break up with their current solution, whatever that is. And ultimately it’s a matter of ego because they don’t want to be a bad person that lets the other provider go or makes that change. And again, that’s ego that’s hurting the rest of your company because you don’t want to be the person on the hard conversation where that has to happen.
Christina: Another reason for potentially not wanting to part with your current situation is something that you and I talked about yesterday, Dax, which is, I feel like the psychology professor today, but functional fixedness. So, they might associate their current provider with your example was security. So, basically functional fixedness is when people who are having trouble having a hard time seeing it as different than what it’s always been to them. And the example used was people having a hard time using their iPhone for FaceTime because it’s so ingrained in them that the iPhone is used for making phone calls.
Todd: I think that’s a great point. We get into this mindset that, we get so much experience in business, with everything we’re doing and we’re always leveling up, we’re always growing. And this is the case for pretty much everybody. And you get to the point where you assume you know what you’re talking about. You know what the right answer is. But the thing is that when it comes to technology, even if you are a technology person, you can’t know everything.
And that’s why someone like JMARK is so important, with 80 something technology professionals and different people that are centered around all of these different avenues of technology. Because as you’re growing as an organization, you can’t assume our security is pretty good. You can’t assume our technology is in a good place. You can’t assume productivity is where it should be. You can’t assume that your collaboration is where it should be. Your customer experience, you can’t assume that that’s where it should be because these things are constantly evolving.
And at the time that you are assuming that these things are going well, your competition is potentially innovating using technology to better their organization. And you’re stuck in this functional fixedness problem of thinking that it’s all well, all as well.
Dax: Yeah. And again, maybe all is well. But maybe all could be better. And I think that’s the mindset that you really want to have, and that should be the mindset of your IT provider, your IT solution. They should also be constantly learning, constantly improving their skills so that they can bring new knowledge, new solutions, new processes, new tools to you in order to improve your business. That no matter, even if things are a 9 out of 10, let’s do everything we can to get them to 10.
Christina: Yeah. That’s a good point. You should make sure that your technology person or provider also does not come from a place of ego where we know everything there is to know, because there’s no way.
Todd: Yes, that’s very true. And on that same message is that there isn’t always a truth. So, you may be worried that if I hire an outsourced IT provider, that means I got to fire my internal IT person, if you have an internal IT person. Well, that’s not necessarily true. I mean, we work with a lot of organizations that they keep their internal IT staff and they reallocate that person to do certain things. And then JMARK takes over some of the more advanced infrastructure, and networking, and server management, and monitoring and security and all these things.
And I don’t know. I guess it comes down to being humble. We just got to accept that we don’t know everything and we need to surround ourselves with people who know more than we do. We need to surround ourselves with people who understand how technology is going to shape the industry that you’re in and how it’s going to change your organization or could change your organization.
Have someone that’s really looking out for you and has a foothold in the ecosystem because you can’t know everything. And if your ego is saying, “I need to know. I need to know. I need to read more books. I need to read more blogs. I need to understand this. I need to get my head wrapped around this so I can create a plan,” no, you don’t need to create a plan. You need someone like us, somebody that can help you create the plan. This is something we do all the time.
And again, not going back to JMARK, but it’s this idea of, what is the only truth, doesn’t exist when it comes to technology, because the truth for a 25 person organization in the healthcare industry is different than the truth for a 25 person organization that’s a manufacturer or a 50 person organization that’s in hospitality or whatever it is. The truths are all over the place. And you have to align yourself with somebody that really knows has the experience, all that.
Dax: Yeah. I was going to add that if it helps you satisfy your ego a little bit, you can even tell yourself, it’s not about people who know more than you do, but simply people who know what you don’t know. And which allows you to be the expert in your area. You know things that they don’t know. Our clients know about their area of expertise and that’s their strength. And we’re bringing in the technology side that’s our strength.
I wanted to ask, and this is a question for everybody. I think Todd you’ll have some insight into this having been a business owner and an executive yourself, but so what can business leaders do to create an environment where people are okay admitting that they made a bad choice and then being free to move on to make a better choice? Because I think that it’s very important that that environment is created to make people feel comfortable doing that. So, what can business owners do to make sure that that’s the kind of culture that they have at their organization?
Todd: Yeah. That could potentially be a topic in its own to talk about for an hour, but I think it’s a great question because technology is so integrated into absolutely everything we do as an organization. And when you step back and look at everything and you look at it from a 10,000 foot view and understand that you don’t have all the answers, understand that your employees don’t have all the answers, understand that technology is going in a direction that you may not understand.
It’s essentially leading by example and being upfront with everybody. When mistakes are made, we correct, and we improve, and we make better choices. On the marketing side, as we’ve rolled out campaigns over the last couple of years and as we’ve done so many things, oh my gosh, I mean, the number of mistakes we’ve made have been astronomical. But we’ve learned from those mistakes and we’ve grown from them and we’ve understood what we need to do.
And so, I think it’s just stepping back, being humble, not having ego and looking at what needs to happen. I hate to leave people with this thought of, there isn’t a single truth. But when it comes to technology, that’s why you need a partner so badly is because there is a truth for you. But you have to know someone that has that knowledge and that experience for your type of organization.
I mean, I see a lot of companies that say they do disaster recovery planning, and is a little off topic, but I see a lot of people that advertise this. And I laugh a little bit and it’s not fair. I shouldn’t do that. But it’s like, “Let me tell you about the time when a flash flood ran through JMARK and we were able to take on this many tickets without any delay in our operations.”
And it’s that kind of experience that we’re talking about. It’s not somebody that is in a growing small IT company that is moving into your industry. It’s somebody that knows your industry, that knows other industries, that knows the size and the concerns and the needs of your organization. And that’s how you will ultimately get to make the right choice.
Christina: Yeah. When we’re talking about ingraining this mentality into your culture, the first thing it made me think of is, look at how you train your new hires. And I very specifically remember in my training when I first started Pete saying, “You all should be making a ton of mistakes in your first 90 days.” That’s important. And that might be part of the reason why whenever our leadership in the company talks about making a change or trying something new, I’d never view it as like, “Oh, they made a bad mistake before then,” I think of it as, “Oh, good. We’re all growing. We’re all learning. It’s a good thing.”
Todd: Yeah. There’s so many things that as an organization we change and we modify, we implement. I mean, the number of applications we have as an organization for different teams to do different things. I mean, we’re always testing new stuff and we’re testing it for the purpose of making ourselves better. And then ultimately is this something we can take to our clients to help them be more successful?
And that goes along with that idea of making mistakes and learning from experiences, trying new things and letting people fail and learning from those failures and ultimately creating bigger success and looking beyond the failures towards a longterm view of success.
Dax: Yeah. And I think those are the types of questions that you can ask when you are vetting potential IT company. Find out about, I mean, ask these types of questions, explore not just what they have and the literature they’re giving you about their services and that kind of thing, but explore their history, find out what kind of experiences they’ve gone through that have given them the expertise.
Find out, like Christina just mentioned, about their training. Find out about their culture to find out if they have the type of culture where they will come to you with the truth if they make a mistake and own up to it and tell you their solution for fixing it. And they will come to you with the hard truth. If they feel like there’s something where you have vulnerabilities or where your technology is holding your organization back, they will come to you and be honest about it rather than be afraid of reaching a difficult topic with you. Because those are the things that are the hallmarks of a true partner who is truly trying to help you.
And another aspect of that I thought of when you were talking also, Todd, a few minutes ago, and Christina, you mentioned making sure that your IT partner doesn’t have an ego. Same thing. Make sure your IT partner is doing the same thing and listening to you. And finding out that their ego is not making them tell you things, but their ego is taking in, they have a system where they are taking in and learning about your business, learning about your needs, about your goals and about your workflows the way you need to use technology. And they are taking that into account so that they can help you achieve what you want.
Todd: Yeah. And I think we can take that a step farther and when you’re working with an IT company, do they own up to mistakes? If you have an internal IT staff, do they own up to the mistakes or the shortfalls that they have? You cannot have an internal IT person that understands and knows everything about security and technology and servers and virtualization and everything that happens on a network.
But that doesn’t mean they’re a bad person. But do they hoard that information? Are they always just trying to make themselves look good or do they admit their mistakes and admit problems that they have? And I think those are important signs to look for. And whether it’s your own staff, your IT staff, if you have internal IT and even your partners, especially technology partners.
Dax: Yeah. I think that moves back around to the question I asked a few minutes ago about creating that culture. And I think that’s one thing you can do is create this… And you mentioned, Todd, leading by example. Create this culture where people are free to admit their mistakes. And the idea is that you’re not looking at the mistake, but you’re looking at the solution that they’re bringing to you to rectify whatever they did. Or if they haven’t quite figured it out that they’re telling you, “Look, I noticed that this was a mistake and I haven’t found the solution, but here’s what I’m doing in the process to find the solution.” And then you either can help them or give them the capacity and give them the focus to solve the problem. And I think that’s very important for creating that sort of environment.
Christina: Yeah. This all just comes back to me at least to JMARK’s core value of honesty. You always would rather work with an imperfect, honest person than a “perfect” person who’s lying to you basically.
Todd: That is very true. I think we’ve we’ve had a pretty awesome discussion here. There’s a lot to be taken away and I hope that after you have listened or watched this episode, you’ll take some time to think about and contemplate some of the things that we’re talking about. We mentioned in one of our other episodes, we had an interview with Daniel Burrus, who’s a expert leader on innovation and disruption. And he talked about a simple strategy of taking a short time every week, whether it’s an hour a week just to step back and think about innovative tactics and strategies and try to get a big picture of what can be done in your organization to improve customer experience and velocity.
And I think that’s a great tidbit that we can leave here with, because there’s plenty of things to think about, plenty of things to… There’s finances, there’s all the different things that go on in an executive’s mind that they have to worry about and taking the time to figure out, are you making the right moves with technology? Is there a better path to making those moves? Are you the one that’s potentially holding the organization back from making better technology decisions?
Whether, because of an ego or because you’re holding things too tight in fear of pain or in fear of uncertainty. But we have to remember that we’re in a time of massive change. Change that we have just never seen at the rate that it’s at right now with technology. Your competitors are changing, your clients, your customers are changing, their behavior is changing.
And when we’ve talked about this idea of going to a better normal, the concept is essentially meeting your customers where they are. And if they’re changing, you have to adapt and make sure you are where they are. And so, that’s what we leave you with. And then if you want to learn more about the cognitive biases, check out our website and just type in cognitive bias in our search and you’ll find the blog posts that were mentioned.
And of course, if we can help talk about your strategy going forward, please reach out to JMARK on our website or give us a call and we would be happy to engage. And until then, have an awesome week. Bye-bye.
Speaker 1: Thank you for attending this podcast. We hope it has been informative and helped convey that at JMARK, we are people first and technology second.
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