Sunflower Bias is when we turn to face the ‘brightest’ source in the room – and allow them to influence us beyond the rigor of their arguments.
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As they are growing, Sunflowers turn to face the sun during the day. And people do something similar.
Often, in meetings, groups turn to align their opinions to the brightest source in the room. This may be the expert, the client, boss, or the leader. They find it hard to disagree when they know what the most important person in the room thinks. That is sunflower bias.
The most important person is not necessarily right. Even experts get it wrong.
The best chance of a robust decision, is one where everyone contributes their independent thinking.
So, if you are the expert, client, boss, or leader, you have a responsibility. If you want to hear what people really think, keep your own views to yourself. And don’t call on experts to speak first. For your views after hearing everyone’s ideas.
If you are not in the lead, avoid the desire to align yourself to the sun. When they mature, sunflowers stop turning to face the sun, wherever it is. And so must you. This doesn’t mean taking up a contrary view for its own sake. But it does mean finding the right direction to face, on each issue.
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Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.
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