What is Bias for Action? How Can Companies Encourage it?, The MDC Group

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Do you know people who can’t make decisions? Are people on your team afraid to move forward on a project because they fear decisions they make might be wrong and come back to bite them? For companies to move forward, they need to instill and support bias for action. They must know how to teach and encourage bias for action because the concept can make the difference between company and project success and stagnation.

An article by simplicable.com defines bias for action as “A propensity to act without extensive thought or planning.” Sometimes speed can be more important in business than careful planning and thoughtful decision-making. While action should not be taken without thought, it should be taken sooner rather than later. If an effort turns out to be less than perfect, reversing decisions, adjusting, or changing directions are all feasible solutions. The opposite of bias for action can be mediocrity. When organizations take small hesitant steps, there’s less risk, but also missed opportunity, and less progress.

When a company like The MDC Group encourages the bias for action concept, everyone spends less time analyzing and preparing to act. People who are afraid of reprisal if their decision doesn’t work out well will overanalyze, over-plan, pass the buck, and procrastinate. All of that slows progress and prevents growth.

Bias for action means a company and its team members are risk-takers who embrace rather than fear action and change. Here are five ways companies can incorporate bias for action into their culture.

1. Transparent Communication and Trust

For the bias for action concept to work, companies must also have transparent communication and an atmosphere of problem-solving rather than finger-pointing and blaming. With transparent communication, team members share information freely and always honestly say what they think and feel. The MDC Group embraces transparent communication because when employees trust everyone in the organization, they make decisions quickly. They also support other people’s decisions and step in to help if things don’t go as anticipated. People fear making decisions when they think the consequences of a wrong one will be reprisal and damage to their position in the company.

2. Reduce Distractions Around Decision Making

People make better decisions when they can concentrate. When someone feels overwhelmed by a long list of tasks and responsibilities, thinking clearly enough to make quick decisions becomes difficult. When constantly interrupted by phone calls, emails, and people dropping by, a decision-maker can’t concentrate on the factors involved in deciding on a direction. Instead, by encouraging team members to turn off their phones, close their doors, and ignore emails, while they discuss or think through a problem to solve, a company can make faster and better decisions and take actions sooner.

Where closing a door isn’t possible, like in an open concept office or job site, establish and enforce do-not-disturb protocols, so everyone feels like they can get uninterrupted time when needed. A BBC article has some suggestions for preventing disruption in an open-concept office.

In one example, they describe how a company managed to control interruptions when there weren’t walls to hide behind or doors to close. The company gave everyone a painted brick with one side red and the other green. When someone wanted to think and make decisions, they displayed the red side of the brick. They displayed the green side when they were freer to talk.

Other companies use red and green lights, signs, hats, and other display items to communicate a desire to be left alone. Wearing headphones can also signal that you are either on the phone or unavailable. Whether the wearer listens to anything through the headphones or not, they have time to think. The key is to design, establish, and enforce a system that allows people some space and time when they need it.

3. Encourage Seeking Out Individual Input

While you might eventually need a meeting, teach team members to first seek out people with the most knowledge and best understanding of the challenge. A series of quick, one-on-one information trading sessions can take less time and provide better information than a group meeting. Feedback from individuals on what should be done can be easier to process and categorize. Once a decision maker has talked to people who know the most about an issue and gathered a few possible solutions or paths forward and some feedback on each, they can start to move or choose to hold a group meeting to present and discuss the options.


4. Caution Against Depending on Group Think

Throwing a problem out to a diverse group can sometimes waste time and energy and start momentum in a wrong direction that’s hard to stop. Before any group meeting, the individual decision-maker should drill down and define the problem or challenge. Individuals can give their opinions and ideas beforehand, but when a meeting is needed, the leader should be ready to present the group with a few choices or questions rather than an open-ended query. An open, undirected discussion can get off on a tangent, and everyone can get caught up in a direction that they normally wouldn’t honestly support. Teach team leaders and managers to do what they can to control a group meeting to find the best solution or path.

5. Rely on Facts Rather Than Intuition

We all know people who would rather rely on intuition they have developed through experience than take time to examine the facts. While intuition has a place, like when two alternatives seem equally viable, making decisions without evaluating the facts of the case can be just as dangerous as a fear of decision. Encourage everyone in the company always to take a little time to think everything through before acting.


When a company or organization teaches and encourages transparent communication and sound decision-making skills, everyone naturally develops a bias for action. When people can get quiet time to concentrate and know they won’t be judged harshly if a decision turns out to be wrong, they make faster decisions. They stop overthinking every situation by following logical decision-making steps. A company with leaders and team members who consistently make faster decisions, moves forward, rather than bogging down.


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