Graeme Newell

Self-Serving Bias

Self-serving bias is one of the most insidious cognitive biases because it robs us of the ability to learn from our mistakes. Our powerful tendency to blame the outside world traps us in an ivory tower, convinced of our own infallibility.

The people most adept at avoiding this cognitive bias are those who have made a fundamental shift in their perspective on defeat. History’s most famous advocate of this mindset was Thomas Edison, when he said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” 

Edison didn’t see his work as individual projects with wins and losses. Instead, he had a LEARNING paradigm. Each defeat was an exciting opportunity to gather more data and further hone his method. He didn’t experience defeat, then sulk. He flipped the script. His setbacks were wins because he learned from each one. He didn’t lament the failure, he delighted in the discovery.

It may sound counterintuitive, but the key to attaining an Edison mindset is to PRACTICE FAILURE. Actively recruit failure into your day-to-day. Start small. Take a different way to work and see if it’s better. Try new foods. Change up the greeting you give officemates. Actively mix it up, then, just like Edison, dispassionately evaluate the effectiveness of each change. Finally, CELEBRATE the learning you’ve gained and go fail some more.