The concept of “modal bias” is simply the thought that our idea or approach is best. We all think that, but it can become much more troublesome when a HiPPO (the highest paid person in a meeting) falls into that trap and we all need to follow it.
Once a HiPPO thinks they have the right answer, the only way to fight back is with data.
Avinash Kaushik has discussed this on his blog a few times, and I’ll paraphrase some of his thoughts here:
It’s critically important to support business proposals and decisions with data. In the absence of data, you’ll ultimately be forced to do things the boss’s way. Modal Bias ensures that the bosses think that their way is best, unless you can prove otherwise. In a battle of opinions, the HiPPO always wins.
If you can bring data to support your points, your boss should pay attention to that. If your boss repeatedly refuses to see the data, that’s another problem entirely. If you find yourself as the HiPPO in a situation, try to stay open to other ideas and data that may refute what your initial thoughts were.
W. Edwards Deming summarized this nicely, and I agree: “In God we trust… all others bring data.”