Cindy Alvarez

Double Negative Leads to Proof Positive!

Once we've formed an opinion, we tend to look for evidence that supports that opinion and minimize evidence that contradicts us. This is called "confirmation bias", and it's probably the root of most bad products, bad hires, and bad relationships.

So how do we avoid it? In any situation filled with subjective information, we have plenty of opportunities to "believe what we want to believe". In customer development, we may find ourselves subtly altering the questions we ask or interpreting responses in the most favorable light. In interviewing potential hires, the same thing may happen.

One way around this is the Trick Question. Identify your bias, and then ask a leading question in the opposite direction. We know from social psychology that people are likely to agree with an interviewer out of politeness/deference to authority. So most people will only disagree with you if they feel strongly in the opposite direction.

Here's a customer development example:

Interviewing candidates has a different twist. An interview is short: it's hard to tell if a candidate is just saying what you want to hear. (If you blog and tweet regularly, as I do, it's particularly easy for someone to figure out what I'll likely agree with.)

Double negative leads to proof positive!

* FYI, I don't ask this Craig's List question any more, prospective Yammer employees.