2040’s Ideas and Innovations Newsletter, Issue 56: How Illusion and Delusion Derail Organizations


  • Don’t assume that your perceptions are reality (they are just your reality)
  • Be respectful of others’ perceptions (they may be right or perhaps closer to true reality)
  • Don’t hold your perceptions too tightly; they may be wrong (determining accuracy takes critical thinking and admitting it takes courage)
  • Recognize the distortions within you (your inherent biases, your life experiences, and your knowledge) that may warp your perceptions (seeing them, without blinders, will better ground your perception in reality, rather than the other way around)
  • Challenge your perceptions (do they hold up under the microscope of reality?)
  • Seek out validation from experts and others that are considered credible (don’t just ask your friends because they likely have the same perceptions as you)
  • Be open to modifying your perceptions if the preponderance of evidence demands it (rigidity of mind is blinding and is far worse than being wrong)


  • Using meaningful data and analytics in decision-making
  • Gaining consensus on goals to ensure everyone is on the same page
  • Determining realistic benchmarks and measures of success
  • A growing business based on real market orientation
  • Keeping personal bias in check

Perceptual Bias

  • Confirmation Bias seeks out information that reaffirms our past choices and we discount information that contradicts our past judgments and makes people more likely to listen to information that confirms one’s existing beliefs and cancels information that doesn’t. The result is an illusion or delusion of reality informed by what is in our heads based on past experiences, encounters, and knowledge we have gained. Therefore, the illusion or delusion informs what we hear or read from others, what we think of others, and what they represent, and if different than our own judgment, well then, of course, they are wrong, and we aren’t.
  • Availability Bias is the tendency of people to base their judgments on information readily available to them. The availability of information is inconclusive. We may not have all the information we need or know the information we need in addition to what we already have to act, respond or make a decision. We make the decision and take the action or response regardless. Why? Our gut wants to fill in the blanks.
  • Representative Bias assesses the likelihood of an occurrence by drawing analogies and seeing identical situations in which they don’t exist. We are the sum total of all that we know and have experienced. We constantly seek to relate what we are considering or experiencing and accord to our past considerations or experiences. We often force-fit the present to the past even if factors and variables are very different across both. The behavior stems majorly from our lack of comfort in change and something new, both of which create anxiety as well as a fear of failure.
  • Anchoring Bias makes one overly influenced by the first piece of information gathered and prone to ignore the rest. As we grasp to find the piece of information or fact, we need to confirm our beliefs, values, decisions, possible responses and actions, and we hone in on the first piece of information or fact that seems to fit so well with our thoughts and perceptions. Everything we find after the first pass is dismissed as it doesn’t fit the rigid mindset that has already formed.
  • Optimism Bias tends to make a person overestimate the likelihood of success and underestimate the probability of failure. Most, including those we consider heroes of exceptional human beings that we admire, are optimistic. They live with the promise of the positive, that things will get better and that any problem can be solved. The optimism of course is important; if we weren’t optimistic at least some of the time, we would stick our heads in the sand and simply give up, overlook what’s going on, and head back into the cave (as Plato described). We must also maintain some element of pessimism to ensure we are considering the factors and variables at play, and recognize what we don’t know, and what might happen. Simplistically, we need to have a plan B to reduce the risk of possible failure.


  • Setting unobtainable and unrealistic, disconnected goals
  • Faulty projections of achievement, goal attainment or expected outcomes
  • Unrealistic expectations of workforce competency and adaptability to change
  • Making key business decisions on gut instinct despite what others think
  • Believing only you know your customers and your market intuitively or that the data lies

Perception and Reality in the Workplace

  • Job Satisfaction: An employee’s perception of individual opportunities for advancement and salary or hours, versus that of other workers, can severely affect job satisfaction.
  • Duties and Expectations: Workers’ thoughts about workload and the time to complete assigned tasks may differ greatly from what supervisors or other coworkers think of their workloads. Reality may actually be somewhere in between, but owners and managers should take time to survey employees in a non-forceful way and allow them to feel that their responses are valuable.
  • Communication: With the overflow of memos, emails, meetings and conversations in the workplace on a daily basis, it is important to verify that employees are receiving the intended message. Communication quality control occurs when the sender of a message follows up with the recipient to ensure a mutual understanding is reached.
  • Working Relationships: Often committee or team working situations result in a small percent of the team doing most of the work. Make sure a team leader or supervisor sets specific roles and duties for each team and those methods are in place to double-check who does what. Many managers perceive that a project went well just because it was completed on time, but this is not always the case.
  • Diversity: Companies sometimes feel that they are doing a great job at supporting their workers and accommodating their diverse lifestyles. This perception may not match up with the reality that employees face. Think of the needs of your employees and try to accommodate them without being asked.

Illusion/Delusion Distorts Change and Transformation



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