Confirmation bias is one of the most pervasive tendencies in human nature.
Bestselling author and professor, Michael Shermer sums up the reason why we are so susceptible to confirmation bias: “Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons.”
Confirmation bias is the human tendency to interpret new information as a confirmation of our existing beliefs and ignore it if it challenges our existing beliefs. For example, if you see a glowing object in the night sky and you’re a firm believer in UFOs, you might be convinced you’ve just spotted an alien spacecraft.
The presence of confirmation bias has been well-documented in everything from the 2016 U.S. election to scientific research. And product managing, growth hacking and analytics are definitely not immune to it. Here are some important examples of confirmation bias in product management and analytics and suggestions for how to avoid it.
A couple months ago, Amplitude CEO Spenser Skates did an AMA with one of our favorite online communities GrowthHackers. GrowthHackers is a network of growth professionals looking to share their knowledge and collaborate on growth best practice; obviously we were excited to answer questions about user behavior analytics! Spenser also used the opportunity to share his personal experience as an entrepreneur, growing a SaaS business and his thoughts on analytics as a key driver of retention and growth.
If you missed out on the AMA, this recap highlights some of the really great questions we received!
According to The Social Network, Mark Zuckerberg invented Facebook after his ex-girlfriend broke up with him. It was his ego, the movie argues, that both drove him to succeed and doomed him to alienate those around him.
One of Facebook’s most important early team members paints a very different portrait of Zuckerberg. “I’ve never met anyone at such a young age who would truly listen,” Chamath Palihapitiya said of his management style, “In fact, he doesn’t need to talk a lot. He just sits there and listens.”
Zuckerberg takes in every possible perspective, Palihapitiya says, before he makes a call. In short, he’s pretty far from the bullheaded stereotype The Social Network portrays him as. But he also started a billion-dollar business from his dorm room, and that’s not something you accomplish if you’re a terribly modest human being.
Everyone has an ego. The key is learning to rein it in. “You can be confident,” as Palihapitiya points out, “You can be arrogant. It doesn’t really matter. But you can’t believe your own BS.”
We tend to think of data as objective, as neutral information, but that’s not really true. Nowhere is believing in your own BS more dangerous than your analytics dashboard. Your ego will cloud your judgment, you’ll make all the wrong decisions, and you will never understand why.
Go into your analytics with your ego, and you erase any chance you have of understanding what makes your business tick and what you have to do to grow it.
We started off the new year with a failure. On January 4, 2016, one of our engineers mistakenly deleted several tables containing Amplitude metadata critical for processing and visualizing event data. Although we were able to fully recover all data, the deletion resulted in a week-long outage that affected all of our users worldwide. This was our first major outage as a company. We made a mistake – one that was costly to us, and more importantly, costly to our customers. We failed to maintain the quality of service that we committed ourselves to provide.
The days following the outage were a frenzy of figuring out how to best remedy our mistake and how to communicate what had happened to our customers. I wanted to provide insight into our decision-making process during the outage, what we’ve learned, and what we’re doing going forward.
Equity compensation for startup employees is broken. Ownership of a company is supposed to be one of the biggest upsides of joining an early stage startup, but it’s riddled with traps. Employers don’t share as much information as they should and employees don’t know the right questions to ask to make sure they get treated fairly. I have only seen prospective hires ask questions about equity compensation when they have been screwed over by a previous startup. It took being screwed over to even know where to look!
Founders are in the lucky position that they have a seat at the table during any decisions that impact their equity and can advocate for what’s important to them. I’ve never seen employees be afforded that even though they’re the biggest contributors to a company’s success (much more so than the founders or investors).
We feel strongly about changing the status quo at Amplitude. Today we’re announcing two big improvements to the standard way startups grant equity:
- We’ve extended the post-termination option exercise window from the standard 90 days to ten years for all employees – regardless of how long they’ve been at the company.
- We provide every hire with detailed information about what the equity that we’re granting them means.
Our customers are part of the Amplitude family and their success is the most important factor when measuring our own success. As a result, our Success team takes a proactive approach in guiding our customers to identify and solve problems instead of relying purely on the reactive approach that has traditionally dominated SaaS.
For us, customer success is much more than responding to support tickets, and it even extends well beyond onboarding and product training: it’s a continuous one-on-one relationship with our customer. Continue reading
Christine Yang is Amplitude’s Director of Business Development and was our first sales hire.
The route by which I got into sales is pretty unusual.
I majored in Electrical Engineering, with a focus on device materials and solid state physics. I spent my summer internships working in circuit design at Cisco and Broadcom. I got the chance to work with a professor on an incredible project: designing the logic for a Bluetooth-enabled blood pressure monitor.
My brain is wired for engineering. And yet I was very unhappy at these jobs, toiling away at my computer by myself. I briefly considered going to culinary school so I wouldn’t have to choose between creating things and getting to be around other people. I worked for a restaurant for three months and discovered it was an incredibly difficult industry to work in.
Then, I found sales.
Now, I get to interact with people all day and also put aspects of my engineering training to use. If there are any extrovert-engineers out there who are unhappy at their jobs, I thought I’d share my story in case it would inspire them to try their hand at sales. As it turns out, a background in engineering is very helpful for my job at Amplitude, where I sell an analytics platform to largely technical customers.