Why confidence may be overrated
‘Humble-but-competent leaders are both better-liked and more successful than braggarts,’ says Oliver Burkeman
Stride into a meeting and just repeat your point the most insistently, and you’ve a good chance of winning the day, some studies suggest. New research, led by Bryan Bonner at the University of Utah, underlines the point. He asked small groups to answer factual questions, such as the driving time from Salt Lake City to Manhattan, or the weight of the world’s heaviest person (1,400lb). The most confident people wielded outsized influence, regardless of accuracy. But when the groups were first asked consciously to consider reasons why certain members might truly know their stuff, or other reasons for preferring certain answers, the influence of the merely confident fell, while accurate members did better. Confidence is what Bonner calls a "messy proxy" for expertise. To short-circuit its effects in the context of meetings, reframe them as fact-finding exercises. Keep a running list of conclusions on a whiteboard, or do anything else to switch the focus from who is being convincing to what they’re saying.
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