Tip #631: How Loyalty and Freedom of Choice Can Curb Learning

male senior employee

“Your thinking depends on your perception, just as your perception depends on the way you think.”   Aniekee Tochukwu Ezekiel

Andrea May has identified ten cognitive biases and we have considered the first six: Confirmation, Anchoring, Curse of Knowledge, the Dunning-Kruger effect, Functional Fixedness and Mere Exposure Effect in previous Tips.

Now we’ll look at the next two cognitive biases and discuss how we can counter their effect through our training design and delivery. The titles and descriptions of the biases are Ms. May’s. The commentary continues to be mine.

  1. Not Invented Here bias: The tendency to discount information, ideas, standards, or products developed outside of a certain group.

I have encountered this bias in regard to case studies. It is always best to have case studies that are as realistic and as true to the industry as possible. This will enable the participants to gain the greatest benefit from their assessment and findings.

However, if you draw case studies from real situations with which some of the participants may be familiar (or may even have been involved), they will spend so much time explaining the situation that the group will rarely get to an assessment. Or worse, they will automatically refer to how the situation was actually handled, rather than objectively assessing the situation and coming up with creative solutions-which was why you chose to use the case study activity in the first place.

Selecting case studies can be a minefield, because you can never please everyone. For example, when designing a class to teach supervisors how to motivate their employees, I asked for examples from their managers. It was not possible to incorporate all of their examples, so I had to select those that pertained to different motivational challenges.

Feedback from some of the participants revealed their dissatisfaction with the case study choices since they didn’t see their particular work area represented!

I often use general case studies because the situations are common to many organizations, the strategies to handle them are easily transferable, and I won’t run into participants who were involved in the situation. However, even when I introduce the case study from this perspective, there will still be participants who complain. Sigh…

  1. Reactance: The urge to do the opposite of what you are asked to do in order to preserve your freedom of choice.

I try to minimize the possibility of this bias by giving participants choices.

Participants can choose where to sit, who to partner with, and how they want to participate. If there are case studies, they can choose which case studies are most relevant to them and work on those. If there are worksheets, I leave it up to the participants to decide whether they want to write down their responses or simply remember them when it is time to discuss them.

To the extent possible, I do everything I can to create and maintain a collaborative environment.

I even make sure to say “Please” when I give directions (both verbally and in the participant manual) in order to soften their impact.

If you have recognized and addressed these biases, it would be wonderful to know what you did.

We’ll address the last two cognitive biases in our next Tip.

May your learning be sweet.


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