3 cognitive biases Product Managers should be mindful of

And how to avoid them

Dianthe van Velzen
Jul 15, 2019 · 3 min read

At Booking.com product managers are highly data-driven. But even with a wealth of data at our fingertips, we’re just human beings prone to bias. On a daily basis we juggle many projects and liaise with several stakeholders. With so many competing priorities, it’s important to be aware of the ways cognitive biases can affect our decision making and ultimately the product.

Below are 3 cognitive biases product managers should be mindful of.

Sunk cost fallacy

Imagine this: you prioritised a story, your team poured weeks of design and development into it, but it hasn’t delivered much benefit for the user or impact for the business. What do you do? The obvious answer is to abandon the story and focus efforts on more fruitful initiatives. In reality, people have a tendency to continue pouring resources into things in which they already invested energy — no matter how irrational it may seem. The more time, money or energy we invest in a feature, the harder it becomes to give up on it. This is called the sunk cost fallacy.

How to avoid this?

  1. Take small steps. At Booking.com, we prefer launching MVPs rather than spending weeks building a perfect solution that may or may not work.
  2. Always question your own decisions! 🤔
At Booking.com, product ranking on the home page is powered by machine learning to deliver the best ranking experience for each user.

Order bias

How to avoid this?

  1. Embrace machine learning. At Booking.com feature ranking is powered by machine learning to deliver the best ranking experience for each user.
  2. Ask other product managers to be mindful too. ☮️

Confirmation bias

Imagine this: your team built a feature which delivers loads of bookings, but increases customer service tickets by a lot more. Would you consider this feature successful? If you would only take into account bookings, the answer is ‘yes’. But if you consider both metrics, the answer would probably be ‘no’.

How to avoid this?

  1. Let team members review A/B tests before going live.
  2. Work with diverse teams. The more diverse the team, the easier it is to recognise biases. 🤝

Closing thoughts

Booking Product

Stories from the Product people at Booking.com

Booking Product

Stories from the Product people at Booking.com

Dianthe van Velzen

Written by

Product Manager @ Booking.com. With ❤ from Amsterdam. I write about behavioural economics in relation to every day products. Views are my own.

Booking Product

Stories from the Product people at Booking.com