Optimism Bias

Optimism Bias


Optimism Bias is the technical term for the human tendency to underestimate that problems and challenges will crop up. Planning Fallacy is its first cousin–the well researched tendency for people to underestimate how long it will take to complete a task or job. Indeed, optimism is a good thing and an essential leadership skill but unchecked it can lead you to ignore risks and commit yourself and/or your team to dangerous choices and actions.

Keeping your eyes wide open is critical and team dialogue about three big questions is a good way to keep ahead of both Optimism Bias and Planning Fallacy:


  1. What are the conditions for claiming victory/ What is our vision?
  2. Imagine a year from now and we haven’t achieved our vision. Looking back, it’s too bad we lacked the foresight to do what?
  3. Imagine it’s a year from now and we’ve fully achieved our vision. Looking back, thank goodness we HAD the smarts and the foresight to do what?


If you will ask those three questions regularly, you will discover what you don’t know, or are pretending not to know, and then get you prepared to lead your team and better manage your results.


What’s your bias?