In one of Life’s Little Instruction Books, I read, “don’t dismiss a good idea simply because you don’t like the source.”
The idea was profound when I first encountered it. It’s even more profound now that I understand the brain science behind it.
A side effect of our brains seeking out in-groups is our tendency to reject good ideas when they come from someone we don’t like or trust (someone in our out-group, who we—or at least our brains—perceive as a threat). Our brain gets in the way of smart decision-making. What’s worse—we’re often unaware that that’s happening.
Think about how knowing from where or whom an idea came might be influencing you. In scientific terms, these phenomena are known as the “halo effect” and the “horn effect.” The halo effect essentially means there is one aspect of you that I like; therefore, I like all aspects of you, including your ideas. Conversely, the horn effect means there is one aspect of you I don’t like; therefore I don’t like anything about you, including your ideas.
For example, do you automatically say no to ideas from subordinates instead of considering them? Do you immediately say “bad idea” because it comes from a politician you don’t like instead of recognizing its merits?
One way to combat the brain’s tendency to find the fastest way to get things done is by leveraging our similarity bias—or in-group bias—to replace the source with someone we respect or like and then re-visiting how we would feel about the idea.
I hope the 12 words that changed my life can improve yours, too. Don’t let distaste dissuade smart decision-making.