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  • Writer's pictureDiane Pierson

Avoid Confirmation Bias with Better Product Team Workflows

The Dangers of Bad Product Team Workflows in Gathering Market Insights

A couple years ago, I posted about the dangers of quoting secondhand statistics to justify or recommend market action. This danger has only grown with product teams' reliance on AI, but it's only a small piece of the problem they have with gathering actionable market insights. Let's talk about another piece; the one that happens before the research even begins:


B2B product teams have confirmation bias and can't innovate on purpose

How Product Teams Start Down the Path of Confirmation Bias

Let's use the example from that 2022 post I just mentioned. At the time, I was consulting with a B2B tech product marketing team on launch tactics. I was trying to talk the client out of doing cold-calling campaigns, so was looking for some data to back me up.


Did you catch it? I'd ALREADY DECIDED what my advice would be and was only looking for data to back up my position. My personal opinion is that cold-calling campaigns are expensive and ineffective, and I went looking for reasons for my client to accept that position. Can you say, "confirmation bias?"


Confirmation Bias in Product Workflows: No Good Comes of It

Confirmation bias, defined as the tendency of people to favor information that validates their beliefs or values, is where I began my market research workflow. From this position, I've already taken learning about real market preferences out of the equation - I'm looking to justify my own recommendation. That's a dangerous game that's ruined some spectacularly successful companies.


If I start my market research with confirmation bias, I've already taken "facts" out of the equation - I'm just looking for arguments.

From Sears to Blockbuster to Blackberry (if you don't know who these companies are, I've already proven my point), strong companies have ignored conflicting data to push ahead with their own ideas against the clear wishes of the market.


It's never been easier to find a statistic to justify the opinion you already hold. What's hard? Looking for ways to DISPROVE what you believe. To question your assumptions and validate hypotheses before going all-in on building products and commercialization strategies around them.


How to Stop Confirmation Bias in Product Teams

Take small steps to eliminate confirmation bias in product teams: start with being aware of your intentions: are you looking for insight or a just pile of stats to back up your preconceived notion? Always try to disprove your own position and ask others if they've done the same. Create hypotheses and test them in the market using measures that clearly align with what you're trying to test. Innovating on purpose means innovating for the market, not for our version of the truth.


About the Author

Diane Pierson is the Founder and Chief Market Strategist of Innovate on Purpose, a consultancy enabling successful product commercialization for B2B tech companies. Order her book, How to Innovate on Purpose or contact Diane at dpierson@innovateonpurpose.com.

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