The Power of Discomfort: Seeking Out Information That Challenges Your Assumptions

I was reading the HBR article, “3 Strategies for Making Better, More Informed Decisions“, which discusses three strategies for making better, more informed decisions; which are explained below. By following these strategies, you can overcome the limitations of self-serving biases and make more informed choices.

The three strategies are:

  • Seek out diverse perspectives and evidence. When making decisions, it’s important to consider all sides of the issue. This means actively seeking out information that challenges your own beliefs. By doing so, you can ensure that you’re making the best decision possible based on all the available information.
  • Engage in counterfactual thinking. Counterfactual thinking involves imagining how things could have turned out differently. This can be a helpful way to reflect on your decisions and identify areas where you could have improved. By thinking about how you could have made different choices, you can learn from your mistakes and make better decisions in the future.
  • Take a step back and consider the big picture. When faced with a difficult decision, it’s easy to get caught up in the details. However, it’s important to take a step back and consider the big picture. This means thinking about the long-term consequences of your decision and how it will affect other people. By taking a broader view, you can make sure that you’re making the best decision for everyone involved.

I’m going to focus on the first strategy: seeking out information that challenges your beliefs and assumptions.

Seeking out information that challenges your assumptions is an excellent approach to making better, more informed decisions. This is very important because we’re all prone to falling to confirmation bias. That is, seeking out information that confirms our beliefs.

8 ways to sharpen your thinking by seeking out information that challenges your assumptions

Here are some unique ways you can incorporate challenging your assumptions into your decision-making process:

  1. Diverse Perspectives. Actively seek out diverse perspectives on the subject matter. Engage in conversations with individuals who hold different opinions, beliefs, or experiences. This exposure to diverse viewpoints can broaden your understanding and challenge your preconceived notions.
  2. Devil’s Advocate. Play the role of a devil’s advocate by intentionally questioning your own assumptions and arguments. Step back and critically examine your thought process, considering alternative explanations or counterarguments. This exercise helps you identify potential biases and opens your mind to different possibilities.
  3. Information Sources. Expand your sources of information by exploring different media outlets, books, research papers, podcasts, or documentaries that provide varying perspectives. Look for sources that present contrasting views or challenge prevailing narratives to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the subject.
  4. Engage with Dissenting Opinions. Actively seek out opinions and arguments that contradict your own. Engage with thoughtful and well-articulated dissenting viewpoints through online forums, social media discussions, or attending debates and panel discussions. This exposure to opposing arguments can help refine your own thinking and challenge your assumptions.
  5. Experimentation and Exploration. Embrace a mindset of experimentation and exploration. Try out new experiences, engage in activities outside your comfort zone, and expose yourself to different cultures, disciplines, or industries. This broad exposure encourages fresh perspectives and helps break away from limited assumptions.
  6. Critical Thinking Exercises. Engage in critical thinking exercises or problem-solving activities that challenge your assumptions. For instance, solve puzzles, and riddles, or engage in debate sessions that require you to think critically, analyze different angles, and challenge your preconceived notions.
  7. Peer Feedback and Review. Seek feedback from trusted peers or mentors who can provide constructive criticism and challenge your assumptions. Create an environment where people feel comfortable sharing differing opinions and perspectives, fostering healthy discussions and learning from each other.
  8. Self-Reflection and Awareness. Cultivate self-awareness and practice self-reflection regularly. Pay attention to your own biases, assumptions, and cognitive shortcuts that may influence your decision-making process. By being mindful of your own thinking patterns, you can actively seek out information that challenges those biases.

Bottom line: Seeking out information that challenges your assumptions requires an open mind, intellectual curiosity, and a willingness to embrace discomfort. Embracing diverse perspectives and challenging your own thinking leads to more well-rounded decisions and a deeper understanding of complex issues.