Availability Bias refers to how our minds retrieve information from the most recent memories first. Along with the most recent events, emotionally charged memories are also easily retrieved. In other words, what’s available is what’s easy to recall.
Example: Let’s pretend I am given a disposable camera in the morning. I take pictures all day until I’m out of film and at the end of the day I'm asked, “What do you use to take a picture?” My response would be “a camera” because it is what I used all day. Its recency makes the memory easily retrievable. However, on any other day my response would be “my phone.” Rarely do I ever have a camera in my possession, so I take pictures with my phone. But because the camera was the most recent memory, my answer was a camera.
Download our Cognitive Bias cheat sheet for your one-page guide to the eight Cognitive Biases that block innovation efforts.
Overcoming Availability Bias During Innovation
Mind maps are a great way to suppress Availability Bias while generating ideas. They are focused around a central theme, such as an opportunity area or a product’s specific feature, and the goal is to develop associations related to that theme. The image below is a simple mind map centered around dogs.
Mind maps may seem simple, but while you are innovating, they push beyond what is readily available and force further out associations. Whether you are generating new products, positioning, or names, the goal is to be creative as possible. Don’t make the simple connections that everyone else will make. Push beyond what first comes to mind and use your imagination. To get the most unique ideas using a mind map, remember these two tips:
More connections means more creative and less common ideas.
Stretching the mind map laterally will stretch your thinking laterally, allowing for original and stimulating ideas.
By utilizing this technique, Availability Bias will be undermined and you won’t just be generating topical content. Your ideas will be further out, while remaining unique and connected to the original theme.
Tyler Thompson is a Creative Process Designer and Facilitator at Ideas To Go, an innovation agency that works with Fortune 500 companies in ideation and concept development to incorporate the voice of the consumer.