Five cognitive distortions: correct overgeneralisation

This is the third in a series of blog posts looking at five cognitive distortions of high achievers. Today, we’re looking at correct overgeneralisation. Michael Dearing defines this as making universal judgements from limited observations. In other words, basing critical decisions on scant data. Sounds like something many of us do–but Dearing adds this kicker: and being right a lot of the time.

Being right at lot of the time creates a problem. If we’re already experiencing an excess of personal exceptionalism and dichotomous thinking, being correct more often than not is only going to feed our egos. Which creates two additional problems for our organisation:

  1. When people come to us with critical data that they would like us to consider, we’re likely to dismiss them. This increases the likelihood that one day, we’ll guess wrong. After all, some of the critical data they ask us to consider may actually be, you know, critical. And the higher we rise in an organisation, the higher the stakes should the dice fall the wrong way.
  2. The custodians of the data will feel disenfranchised. Now, this may feel like a non-problem. After all, who needs data when you have an instinctive feel for business? But people who enjoy working with data tend to be sensing personality types. They value their ability to aggregate and interpret data as much as you value your intuition. Cutting them out of the loop creates a divide between them and your inner circle. It heightens the risk of workplace conflict. And, let’s be honest: every modern organisation requires the right data, accurately measured, if it is going to flourish.

So what’s your best solution? If your management style is intuitive, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to transform yourself into an analytical manager. But you can reconsider the way you interact with others. When you make a decision, explain your reasoning. Keep your feet on the ground: don’t let success puff you up. And open yourself to new information. If one of your team comes to you with some previously unseen data, take the time to consider it. Who knows? It may even trigger an idea that changes all your fortunes!

Next week, we’ll look at the fourth cognitive distortion on the list: blank-canvas thinking.


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