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Issue #38: Confirmation bias has its upside, pushing for innovation, and 5 things
Or how we can use confirmation bias to our advantage to build personal confidence
Hola friends! 👋
This week’s thoughts and feelings include:
The positive side of confirmation bias and how it can build personal confidence
(FAKs or Folks.Ask.Kax)
5 things to help you this week
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You’re receiving this newsletter a day late because I needed to completely shut down this weekend. The days before were quite intense so recovery was needed. 😎
Last week, I took my Diplomas de Español como Lengua Extranjera to prove my language proficiency! Granted I only took the lowest level. And yes, I know I’ve been living here for a long time now. And I won’t even know if I passed or failed until 3 months from now.
BUT the test was such a huge milestone for me and has been such a huge boost to my confidence. So allow me to do a little jig! 💃🏽
1️⃣ The positive side of confirmation bias and how it can build personal confidence
As Product Managers, we’re taught that confirmation bias is one of the biggest enemies of building products.
Confirmation Bias is the tendency to look for information that supports, rather than rejects, one’s preconceptions, typically by interpreting evidence to confirm existing beliefs while rejecting or ignoring any conflicting data
But it can also be a personal enemy when we use it to support our self-limiting beliefs — enough to cripple us with constant impostor syndrome, make us feel stuck because we’re afraid, or downplay our capabilities and make us feel “we’re not enough”.
I had my mid-year review recently with my manager. So to prepare, I wrote my own narrative of what the year so far has been like for me.
What were the things I was proud of and the things that could have been better?
It’s been a tough H1. Going through an organization-wide project plus multiple waves of reorgs have really tested my skills and confidence.
I’ve found myself face-to-face with problems I’ve never seen before.
Sometimes I’ve also found myself crossing swords with old enemies (to name a few):
I’m not ready
I’m not good enough
I will only disappoint people
And to be honest, I honestly thought I successfully crushed them. Even if they showed up, I managed to deal with them! GO ME! 🏆
But during my performance conversation and the prep work before it, I realized they were still very much present.
Signs that my confirmation bias towards my self-limiting beliefs was still alive and kicking:
I constantly looked for things that were not going well.
I wrote a long ass narrative about the objectives I set for myself at the beginning of the year but didn’t achieve vs my actual achievements.
I obsessed over the constructive/negative feedback I received.
Yes, these things are normal to think about. I have to set new goals for myself after all to keep on growing.
But what I realized was that I didn’t spend as much energy analyzing the things that I was doing well, the results I have achieved, or the positive feedback I have received.
My confirmation bias was hard at work.
And so the results of this tendency to affirm myself of my limitations showed up in my narrative.
When talking about the things that I was proud of, I referred to my work as “working behind the scenes”.
Technically it’s not wrong. But it’s a framing that diluted my impact.
Never mind that the product portfolio strategy I created for my tribe has just been elevated as our entire organization’s product strategy. Or that my team has remained intact and has been successful throughout all the uncertainty. Or that I found relevant opportunities for some of the people in our tribe to make sure they remain motivated.
While I acknowledged those as things achievements during the first half of the year, in my narrative, these achievements were significantly dimmed by the feedback I’ve gotten about the things I could have/should have done, the gaps that I was not able to fill, and the mistakes I have made.
When my manager was sharing with me her own reflections on my growth and giving me feedback about the things she thought were impressive — she gave me the exact same examples as I have shared… except her framing was different.
In her framing, she called me a “backbone”.
Stories have power and they reflect the mindset we have
My version of the story: “behind the scenes”. Downplays the impact I’ve had and even the complexity of the things I’ve done.
My manager’s version of the story: “back bone of the team”. Amplifies the importance of the role I’ve played and how critical I’ve been to getting our shit together.
At worst, we tell ourselves a very negative version of what actually happened.
At best, we tell ourselves a mediocre version of things.
Both, keep us from the bright and shiny version which sometimes best reflects reality.
And we know what the results of these kinds of stories are:
Constant and crippling impostor syndrome
Lack of confidence in our own skills and experience
Continuous battle with the feeling of “not being enough”
In a conversation with Caroline Clark we talked about how confirmation bias can be seen as a pitfall for PMs, but on the flip side, we can also use it to our advantage. To train our minds to look for evidences of brilliance and value instead of the usual evidences of failure and gaps which can, in turn, build our confidence.
But it needs to start with belief. An unwavering, maybe even delusional, belief that we are good. That we can deliver value. That we are doing the best that we can with what we have and know.
And for me, that I might not have all the answers BUT hot damn, I am an expert in figuring out how to get one.
And since we are experts at finding evidences, why not use this bias to also find evidences for the beliefs that can uplift us? I am pretty sure there are as many, if not more, evidences of these successes vs the evidences of “failures”.
I am a big fan of being aware of our blind spots. To be aware of areas of improvement so that we can work on them.
But our successes and how we made them happen can be our blind spots too. Especially if we’re so used to downplaying or even ignoring them.
When we don’t acknowledge our good work, the result is we don’t feel good our value. This can reflect on how we show up and advocate for ourselves. And this is the kind of energy that spreads. If we’re unsure of ourselves, why should others, especially the people we’re supposed to lead, feel any different?
I always say that it’s important to see gaps not as lack but as opportunities to grow.
But it’s also important to adopt a mindset of positive reinforcement for ourselves. And to be the first person to believe that:
Our light is already shining so bright it’s blinding
We’ve already accomplished so many things the results are incredible
Our successes happened because of OUR skills, hard work, and knowledge
And that when it comes to believing in ourselves and our capacity and capability to be amazing - it’s 100% alright, even necessary to be biased.
It takes time and practice to build this habit.
I’ve done a lot of work on myself and I have tools to flip my mindset to be more biased towards myself. But I also believe that the work continues until my belief in myself can no longer be challenged by unfortunate events or that single circumstantial feedback.
But often it’s work that’s best to do with people who are able to see the shiniest parts of ourselves even when we can’t. I am grateful for the army behind me who never gave me permission to see myself as anything less than fantastic. My manager, my peers, my coach/mentors; who have helped me, are still helping me, to always tell the brightest versions of my story.
What about you? What stories are you telling yourself?
Do you have a support system to help you tell the brightest versions of your story? Do you need help rewriting your beliefs about yourself and find the evidences that not only uplift you but also keep you growing?
2️⃣ (FAKs or Folks.Ask.Kax) I’m frustrated by the lack of innovation in my organization, what can I do?
There’s a lot to unpack here.
First off, what does innovation mean to you? And what’s blocking innovation from happening in your organization?
As with anything, questions like these are best answered with:
✨ It Depends ✨
But I can definitely understand the frustration. When there’s a shiny new idea that you/your team want to try out but the resounding answer seems to always be a NO - there’s a feeling that innovation is not allowed.
But here’s where I invite you to take a step back and maybe challenge this mindset:
01 Innovation needs to serve a purpose.
For us Product Builders, it’s important to tie any and every idea to a problem to solve that will contribute to achieving a goal.
So this is a great time to review the potential value of this particular innovation.
Will it solve a problem? Do you have evidences for this? (hint: validate the idea first!)
Is the problem even important to solve right now? Do you have evidences for this?
02 It’s clear for you/your team, but is it clear for everybody else?
You have all the evidences, you have a case. It seems obvious to your team. But it’s also important to make this case obvious to other people.
Do they also understand the potential value of what you are proposing?
Make it so obvious even your mom knows it.
03 Understand what’s blocking you
Why are people saying no? What are their constraints?
Is it budget? Is it a lack of resources? Or is it a complete deviation from the organization’s priorities right now?
Understanding where the organization is coming from will either help you position this idea better OR be at peace with why you’re getting a no.
04 Explore other opportunities for innovation
A new feature to build is not the only way to foster innovation in your organization.
Sometimes innovation can come in different forms. A better process for collaboration, reducing tech debt, optimizing time to delivery, or something else.
Don’t limit yourself to the idea that innovation can only be done through what you and your team are building.
Are you struggling to get buy-in on your ideas, experiment with new ways of solving your users’ problems, and discover ways to innovate to make sure your team is always motivated? I’m down to help you! Let’s chat!
3️⃣ Five things to help you this week
On Performance Reviews: Do you keep track of all of your achievements? You should! Not only do you need them to build your story in these conversations, but they are a great source of motivation and confidence boost. Julia Evans talks about keeping a BRAG DOCUMENT (and I am in love with this framing).
On becoming a leader:‘s latest newsletter where she shares a pretty important tip: The Path To Leadership Doesn’t Start With You
Been reflecting a lot lately on the challenges Product Leaders are facing. My clients are facing similar challenges. I am too. So this article by Sheekah Khetan was really insightful for me.
- 242th newsletter this year hit a nerve for me. He writes about how our obsession with making things simple (vs acknowledging complexity and enabling teams to navigate them) is actually creating more problems and burnout for our teams.
Have you been following stock news lately? Did you notice Nvidia’s insane growth since last year? Love this spotlight byon his newsletter.
And an important reminder:
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