How a bias for action can impact growth

Published by Elaine Gallagher on

How a bias for action can impact growth

Table of contents

By our nature, humans want to keep moving forward. We are keen to keep growing and progressing, whether in our personal or working lives. 

It’s suggested that a bias for action is an innate tendency. Ancestors would have needed to keep moving to survive. However, we’re no longer in life-threatening danger, so why do we still feel this need to drive forward?

Today, work is our outlet for motivation, and how we progress in life. This can help to push individuals and organisations forward. In fact, monoliths like Amazon list “bias for action” as one of their key leadership principles

However, is it always better to act? The best leaders understand that both action and inaction can drive growth.

What is a bias for action?

On a basic level, a bias for action is what compels a person to act, rather than do nothing. This can apply in many different situations. However, in the workplace, it can impact the individual, colleagues, and the organisation. 

In the first instance, action bias can seem like a positive thing. As a society, we see action as progress, and inaction as a negative thing. In fact, large organisations are keen to adopt a company culture that drives action. 

When a problem is identified in a company, it’s often believed that it’s better to do something, than do nothing. However, in reality, an action bias can go either way.

man looking up with abstract digital thinking and growth mindset

Why action bias is important and how to encourage it

Growth is synonymous with progression, and driving forward. An action bias can fuel progression, when applied correctly. 

The key benefit of action bias is the elimination of fear. The need to act helps us to make decisions without the fear of consequences or judgements. Worrying about the impact of actions can lead to procrastination and, ultimately, stagnation. This is counterproductive for both personal growth and organisational growth. 

Deadlines and targets help increase a bias for action in workforces. Ultimately, they need to meet their deadlines. This leaves little room for fear or anxieties. It might also help to break down your overall goals into smaller milestones. Your workforce needs to see the progress, and build confidence in their actions. If they understand that their actions are improving the business, they will continue to push forward.

It’s also important to ensure that your teams have good communication, and confident leadership. Not every team member is going to have a natural bias for action. While that doesn’t make them a less valuable member of the team, they may need some assistance to push them in the right direction. Good leaders can break employee habits, and guide them towards new ones.

A motivational leader drives teams forward, and the business as a whole. Your team leads need to be encouraging and personable, but not aggressive. They should provide mentoring help. Your employees need to see the benefit of action, in order to engage.

Finally, avoid micromanagement. This can be a real challenge when building a motivational company culture. If your employees don’t feel valued and trusted, they will hold back. Trust is critical for many reasons, but you need to accept your employees’ decisions to build their confidence and action bias.

team in boardroom two colleagues shaking hands happy communication

Why a bias for action can go wrong

Sometimes, action bias can have negative consequences. If decisions and actions aren’t taken strategically, they can have the opposite effect and negate growth. 

Firstly, ask why you’re choosing to make that decision or action. It’s important to assess your actions, rather than just powering ahead. An action bias can indicate a need to be in control, rather than looking to make strategic decisions. 

It’s critical that you balance action bias with the right data or evidence to back up your actions. Understand the consequences of your decisions. This is the best compromise for optimum growth. 

A strong bias for action culture can also encourage inauthentic and empty changes. What might look like progress on the surface is actually just a series of empty actions. Assess the real impact of your moves or changes. Are they being taken to truly drive the business forward, or just to seem in control? Prioritising a bias for action culture can be at the expense of other important cultural components in a workplace.

Sometimes, the right action is to do nothing. The old saying “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” can be applied to company growth. In fact, unnecessary actions can turn a small error into a real problem. If your company is on a steady trajectory, consider how else you might contribute to the maintenance of your progress.

Otherwise, if action is needed, take the time to collate more data before moving. It’s better to make more observations, than act based on limited or imperfect information. Acting without sufficient evidence or information could cause bigger problems in the future. Take the time to re-evaluate your changes.

The key to a bias for action is understanding its importance among other leadership principles, without getting bogged down in empty actions for the sake of actions. Motivate your teams to act for the improvement of the company as a whole.

At BAD, we understand how challenging it can be to build a positive company culture. We make HR and employment tools to help you build a company culture for growth. Get in touch with us today to discuss your workplace culture change.

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How a bias for action can impact growth

By our nature, humans want to… keep moving forward. We are keen to keep growing and progressing, whether in our personal or working lives.

It’s suggested that a bias for action is an innate tendency. Ancestors would have needed to keep moving to survive. However, we’re no longer in life-threatening danger, so why do we still feel this need to drive forward?

Today, work is our outlet for motivation, and how we progress in life. This bias for action can help to push individuals and organisations forward. In fact, monoliths like Amazon list “bias for action” as one of their key leadership principles.