Do We Do What We Say We Do? Cognitive bias in the boardroom

cherche jeune fille au pair allemande A big part of my job as a consultant is discerning the big picture in things. Working with boards, two big picture factors play an outsize role in diminished governance outcomes. The first is confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is, you will remember, the tendency to seek out, favor and recall information that confirms existing beliefs. As such, it is a prime component of erratic inductive reasoning.

creer un site de rencontre avec php The second is what I call normative bias. That is a bias to favor the assumption that current and future events will tend to preserve and confirm the status quo. That tomorrow will look like today. That students in the next decade will face the same challenges as students in this decade.

site de rencontre gratuit sans cb pour homme That is, if you can’t see change, it most likely isn’t happening. Or, that the world leans toward stasis rather than change. And this factor is particularly applicable as a component of considering some localized issue at hand where the big picture is easily obscured by the demands of the moment. Think of it as the error of assuming past stock market winners will be future winners. Think of it as viewing any given infrastructure as immutable and not prone to degradation or obsolescence.

http://www.ekichronicles.com/?pityr=filipina-dating-usa&99b=eb Together, these two biases lead good boards astray. They lead board to ignore threats and opportunities in the interest of preserving the status quo. On the face of it there might seem to be nothing wrong with such conservatism of governance. I do not discredit the term “conservatism” here in the least. The role of a governing board is to govern an organization in trust for the greater community in the service of a relatively immutable mission. That is as it should be. Reckless—and feckless—board governance is anathema to the continuity of a needed service.

sites de rencontre amoureuse africaine But confirmation bias, especially collective confirmation bias, or groupthink, is endemic to board culture and decision-making. It begins with overbroad notions of collegiality, of knowing “one’s place,” of not rocking the boat; there are so many ways American idioms express the concept—precisely because it is so commonplace.

http://josiart.at/rete/2948 Confirmation bias tells us that since we serve an organization that does good work, the evidence tells us that we’re doing good work. Statistics are quoted, testimonials are heard, anecdotal evidence is convincing…or…the statics are not germane, the testimonials are pure emotionalism, and the evidence not actually evidence. What we are hearing in such a scenario is confirmation bias at work.

https://www.gslcgretna.org/fiopr/5585 Confirmation bias gets in the way of realizing that we are underserving entire sectors of the community, that we are training for the wrong jobs, that we are not tracking our former enrollees (all too often inaccurate to call them graduates) for outcomes; all of these circumstances are serious business, but in the face of challenging notions, studies show convincingly that confirmation bias is invincible unless countered.

http://www.hawkerucc.org/monaxinja/7186 And what of normative bias? Normative bias says that change that happens slowly isn’t happening. Global climate change might be the poster child for this one. But it happens at every intersection of personal and collective experience. Baby boomers are not aging. Suburbs are not growing more diverse. College tuitions are not becoming unaffordable. White collar jobs are not disappearing.

Full Article In the rear view mirror, it all seems so obvious. Half of all Americans worked in agriculture in 1890. Forty percent of Americans worked in high quality manufacturing jobs in 1950. So we see titanic forces are obscured in the slowness of their conquest. It happens all around us every day, in nearly every neighborhood, but all to often we don’t know what we’ve got—or don’t have—‘til it’s gone.

http://oxtedurc.org.uk/filimon/4537 When you pair confirmation and normative biases, the errors of inductive reasoning can be compounded to an astonishing degree. We develop an entire sector, let’s say the community college sector, that tells itself and the world that it is the go-to choice for job retraining and access to education for the underserved.

Yet we see that millions of jobs go unfilled every year in regions where un- or underemployed workers are legion and the community college sector has a strong presence.

The educational-industrial complex, to put an ironic twist on it, has not done a good job of providing meaningful retraining for the good jobs that actually exist. Why? Because we so busy doing a good job that we didn’t have room, time, or resources to do the job that needed to be done?

Boards need to ask themselves one question: do we do what we say we do? And they need to demand answers that are backed up by rigorous empirical methods that are as free of cognitive bias as possible.

Do we do what we say we do? That is the question. Let’s start there.

 

Not All Actions Are Equal: From High Touch to Low in Donor Cultivation

We don’t just count the number of actions in assessing our cultivation record; we look at the quality of the interactions themselves. More is not always better—highly personal contacts are. As useful as email is, for example, it is a third-tier form of cultivation. Here is how I rank cultivation actions:

High Touch – Most Valued

  • Solicitation in-person
  • Meeting (not including board committee meetings)
  • Visited contact
  • Breakfast/Lunch
  • Campus tour
  • Conversation

Medium Touch – Valued

  • Dropped by
  • Proposal
  • Phone call
  • Personal letter (even a personal acknowledgment letter)
  • Note

Low Touch – Less Valued

  • Email
  • Left message
  • Fax

Therefore, a visit trumps a phone call, which, in turn, trumps an email.

“They Are Wonderful People, They Just Don’t Do Anything!”

The slightly tongue-in-cheek title of my presentation at the 2015 CASE Conference for Community College Advancement was “They Are Wonderful People, They Just Don’t Do Anything: Dealing expertly with passive, uninspired, underperforming, worn-out, and sometimes fossilized boards.”

In keeping with this lighter take on a serious subject I took an informal poll of the audience, asking which of seven paradigms of dysfunction most afflicted their foundation boards. The options were:

  1. They grandstand
  2. They are asleep
  3. They have a commander-in-chief chair
  4. They have warring factions
  5. Fundraising terrifies them
  6. Change is evil
  7. They don’t do anything

And the winner was… Fundraising terrifies them! And it’s a small wonder, I think, given that community college board members often don’t really know much about what is required of a board member when they agree to serve. They mostly have a vague notion about taking on a volunteer community involvement assignment that includes some meetings and attending a gala.

And that, largely, is our fault. The role of the community college foundation board is to secure resources in support the mission of the college. Yes, they govern as a board, but advancement—securing resources—is not governance per se. They need to know the ropes. In order to avoid semi-futile attempts to cat-herd a reluctant board toward functionality, it helps to foster individual comprehension of what it takes to be an effective board member. That is, they need to know what they are in for before they ever join your board.

You can’t just throw people on the board and hope it works out. And while the board has self-determining governing functions, it is the responsibility of the chief development officer and the college president to exert influence in collaboration with the foundation board leadership to constantly improve the effectiveness of the board.

As a corollary to that notion, you cannot leave a foundation board to its own devices. They need professional direction to direct their efforts to secure resources. They need to know that their primary role will be that of ambassador. That is to say, they will be asked to represent the mission of the college directly and personally to individuals in their sphere of influence who control community and personal resources. They need to understand that they will be armed with stories of student achievement, perseverance, and success. They will know a little something about the challenges, hopes, aspirations, and goals of the college.

So, again, what is the primary role of a college foundation board member? Ambassador to the community for a cause. That’s simple enough.

In the world of advancement, ambassadors cultivate donor prospects. This is often difficult for uninitiated board members because they fear that cultivation might damage their standing with peers, business associates, and friends. The notion of ambassadorship helps to clarify the boundaries and parameters of this endeavor. Ambassadors look outward. They open doors. They bring influential people together with the president, where it is the job of the president to articulate the mission and activities of the college with passion and authority.

We need to anticipate that board members who do not receive a comprehensive orientation to the role they are being asked to fulfill will be terrified of fundraising. We need to address that fear with a coherent set of relationship and messaging “cue cards” to imbue their interactions with their own sense of comfort and ownership.

Ambassadors must look outward, that much we know. And while I am happy to have a board member who is uncomfortable with cultivation if he or she is a major donor—because such leadership by example is priceless—we need to get the right people on the bus, and in the right seats, when it comes to advancement.

So if you find your board is terrified of fundraising, consider a formal initiative to address the root causes, and begin with recruiting the right people and giving them the gift of formal orientation to the role of ambassador. That should prove to be a good start on a neverending journey.