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  • Writer's picturehidet77

Cognitive Bias

In his book, "Workplace management," Taiichi Ohno mentioned that "Illusions reduce efficiencies."

(The English translation used the word, "misconception" but the original Japanese version used "illusion.")

What if I say that this statement is insufficient.

It's not just our eyes. It's our brain.

It's not just the illusions. It's the cognitive bias.

"Cognitive bias." An interesting development in cognitive psychology or social psychology highlights the shortcuts in our brain that lead us to irrationalities.

On Wikipedia, there are like 140 types of cognitive bias. Some are very familiar with those who work in operations.

  • Confirmation bias. The tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one's preconceptions. In addition, individuals may discredit information that does not support their views.

  • Automation bias. The tendency to depend excessively on automated systems which can lead to erroneous automated information overriding correct decisions.

  • Default effect. When given a choice between several options, the tendency to favor the default one.

  • Irrational escalation. The phenomenon where people justify increased investment in a decision, based on the cumulative prior investment, despite new evidence suggesting that the decision was probably wrong. Also known as the sunk cost fallacy.

  • Not invented here. Aversion to contact with or use of products, research, standards, or knowledge developed outside a group.

Wikipedia Contributors (2019). Cognitive Bias. [online] Wikipedia. Available at: [Accessed 24/08/2021].

There is probably more. I thought about the following ones;

  • Blue-collar-workers-are-not-knowledge-worker bias.

  • Full capacity bias.

  • I-don't-have-time-to-do-Kaizen (or go to the shop floor)-but-others-should bias.


Cognitive bias is not necessarily a bad thing. There could be a good bias like Kaizen bias. When it comes to "improvement," instead of relying on expensive outside investment, make many continuous improvements.

Here is what Ohno said but converting illusion to cognitive bias.

"There are so many things in this world that we cannot know until we try something. Very often after we try we find that the results are completely the opposite of what we expected, and this is because having cognitive bias is part of what it means to be human. While it is easy to persuade people by trying out the optical illusion, it is difficult to prove that the ideas in your mind and the thoughts in your brain are, in fact, cognitive biases. In many cases when a person has an idea or makes a statement that they believe is correct, they find that it was a cognitive bias. When you try your ideas the results can be contrary to your expectations."

"These cognitive biases easily turn into common sense. When that happens, the debate can become endless. Or, each side tries to be more outspoken than the other and things do not move ahead at all. That is why there was a time when I was constantly telling people to take a step outside of common sense and think by "going beyond common sense." Within common sense, there are things that we think are correct because of our cognitive bias. Also, perhaps a big reason we do some of the general commonsense things we do is that based on long years of experience, we see there are no big advantages to doing things a certain way, but neither are there many disadvantages to it."

"Whether top management, middle management, or the workers who actually do the work, we are all human, so we're like walking cognitive bias, believing that the way we do things now is the best way. Or perhaps you do not think it is the best way, but you are working within the common sense that "We can't help it, this is how things are.""

Ohno, Taiichi. Taiichi Ohnos Workplace Management: Special 100th Birthday Edition. McGraw-Hill Education.

I do not know how much knowledge did Taiichi Ohno had on psychology. But Ohno's wisdom is still beneficial. And how to practically use his wisdom?

  • I know that if I start pointing out that somebody's opinion is a "bias," that increases the conflict. Instead, we should seriously think about the statement that "We all make mistakes." This statement is not a humanitarian concept. It is the truth about our brain.

  • As Ohno highlighted, a trial should come first before the discussion. To promote such attitude;

    • Managers should be on the shop floor leading small trials.

    • To make these trials effective, we need to standardize. Shop floor or any environment where there are no standards have too many variables that it is impossible to know if the hypothesis worked or not. (Design of experiment)

    • Don't try something that requires investment first. Bad investment becomes a horrible physical and cost monument that prevents further trials.

  • It is good to document the hypothesis and the thinking behind that on one piece of paper. Present it on the shop floor. Welcome, criticism. [A3 thinking]

Finally, I am also very biased so let me know what mistake I made.

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