Cognitive bias at SPA 2007

SPA 2007 logo

I ran the first cognitive bias workshop at SPA 2007 yesterday. It went reasonably well but as I expected it was difficult for participants to review and use the list of cognitive biases I provided.

I was pleased with the level of interest and the quality of outputs though, and I feel the session has proven cognitive bias is a useful tool for understanding complex situations.

Rachel came up with a nice idea, which is to provide participants with the biases printed on small cards. I’ve decided to refine that by trying to organize the cards into “suits” that more or less follow the major topic areas I organized the original list into. The idea is then that each member of a group has one or more suits and is only responsible for understanding the suits they hold (i.e. whoever holds the “memory/retrospection” suit would be looking out for memory errors specifically).

We might be losing something by going down this route though; I think it was Helen Sharp who felt the discussion around the biases was a useful element of the session, and it seems likely that would be reduced or lost in the interest of speeding the session up. I think the group may still benefit through the discussion that’s likely to arise when a bias card is played.

Another improvement I spotted would be to record (in writing or audio) the stories that teams chose. Otherwise it is difficult to make the link to the list of biases and systems diagrams that are produced later.

Thanks to all those who attended for your feedback.

Update Yves Hanoulle has written a conference report that includes some reflections on this workshop.

Session outputs You can find the session outputs on the SPA wiki, although I didn’t have much luck uploading more than 6 pictures, so I’ve also posted them here. Many thanks to Andy Moorley for taking the photos.