Action Bias

The tendency to think that value can only be realized through action. The tendency to act as opposed to the practice of moderation when both options are reasonable. We try to act, not limit ourselves, because we have developed a tendency to value stocks as the main producer of value. Action bias is our tendency to act for reasons that are generally valid, but not in a particular situation, especially when we focus on the benefits of action and ignore the costs. Addiction to action or the “do-something” syndrome is the result of our tendency to always do something by interfering, when in reality everything should be left as it is. [Sources: 6, 8, 14]

There are times when we feel obligated to act, but are not sure of the result, a bias towards action forces us to react to situations and act without adequate logic. When you have a penchant for action, you do something automatically; inaction is what makes the decision. In fact, developing a propensity for action requires some planning. Basically, think of action bias as a tendency to do something without over-thinking. [Sources: 1, 2, 3]

If someone or a team is working with an action bias, don’t spend too much time over-analyzing or thinking too much about solutions. Action-minded people take calculated risks using available data and information, and sometimes cannot quickly find the best solutions in the shortest time frame. However, action bias only works if managers and employees take action to reduce risk and change direction quickly as they move forward. Rather than saying that you constantly have to do what you could do, action bias is the idea that you just have to do something. [Sources: 1, 2]

If you want to exercise, you may not have time for the super-intense Just Do It Workout. You can tell yourself that you will actually start exercising when it gets warmer outside, or when this big work project is finally completed. [Sources: 2]

If you make the right decision and expect to benefit your team, company, or even humans, you will not receive honors, medals, or statues named after you. Even if you value contemplation rather than action, complete inaction is always a fatal sin. Sometimes, actions can really hinder certain things from getting into full play. [Sources: 8, 14]

Most companies view action as a valuable investment, while labeling inaction as lazy and complacent. Folk tales celebrate the courageous exploits of their heroes in slaying monsters or rescuing the weak and vulnerable. [Sources: 12]

Action-minded people aren’t afraid to challenge popular ideas, change jobs, and take other daring career moves. Entrepreneur Ramit Sethi often mentions action-mindedness in his emails, articles, and career page. Jay Akunzo, a marketer known for his rather controversial belief that marketing should be about creating really valuable and interesting things, not blindly ticking boxes, has an entire episode of his podcast devoted to action bias. If Amazon is not promoting this concept, action bias can also be described as being proactive or adventurous, resourceful action or change. [Sources: 1, 2, 3]

Action bias is about acting quickly in order to learn faster, but it is also about choosing where to act; decide what will contribute to the most rewarding learning. In fact, part of the practice is knowing when not to take any action and focusing on using the limited time to make sure the next and next action will have the greatest possible impact. For business groups, a big part of developing an action bias is to focus on what can be achieved by taking action and thus maximizing the potential for growth. Having a clear understanding of what the team is striving for, what performance metrics matter most, and what the team does not yet know makes it possible to take action. [Sources: 4]

This can help the team emerge from the paralysis of uncertainty and nudge the team to continue to test hypotheses and develop new approaches to improve performance regardless of momentum or obstacles in the larger organization. An addiction to action can also help eliminate the overwhelming noise that many workgroups sometimes face. Developing this sense of openness to the decision-making process in the working group can help the group to act more easily. [Sources: 4]

Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not require in-depth research. It is important not to confuse action bias with impulsivity, because impulsive decisions are usually not supported by data, but insights drawn in the dark. But action bias combined with critical thinking and analytical skills can help you a lot. In addition, avoid distracting opinions and use unnecessary information if the information is not entirely relevant to help you take action or make a decision. [Sources: 1, 2, 3]

Knowing this bias will help you understand that there are better methods than always acting as the default. Action bias may also be more likely among overconfident people or if the person has had previous negative results (Zeelenberg et al., 2002), where subsequent inaction would mean not being able to do something to improve the situation. Psychological Review, 93, 136-153) implies that a goal scored causes the goalkeeper to feel worse after inactivity (stay in the center) than the next action (jump), resulting in injury. This phenomenon is commonly referred to as action bias and occurs in many real-life situations, including the examples below. [Sources: 8, 9, 10, 12]

A soccer goalkeeper is faced with a penalty problem when an opposing player tries to score a goal from 11 meters away. However, most goalkeepers prefer to jump to the left or right corner of the goal. [Sources: 12]

An employee who receives a phishing email asking for action will feel compelled to take action, whether it is clicking on a malicious link or downloading an attachment from an attacker. People often do not take further action, presumably because the former was able to reduce their feelings of anxiety or vulnerability. All of the examples above demonstrate a strong preference for action, even when strategies of patience, restraint, and expectation may yield the best results. [Sources: 0, 11, 12]

But an addiction to action arises if this propensity is transferred to areas where these reasons are not applicable, so it is not rational. Research shows that people in positions, family or professional, that hold them accountable for outcomes are more prone to action bias. Let’s take a closer look at this concept and see how this psychological bias can be useful in a professional setting. Action bias, a form of cognitive bias, describes the human tendency to prioritize action over inaction. [Sources: 0, 3, 6, 7]

Cybersecurity professionals as well as healthcare professionals and air traffic controllers are among the professionals who regularly combat this bias. There are several reasons why action bias is striking, says Doug Hough, a senior fellow at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health. [Sources: 0]


— Slimane Zouggari


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