Disconfirmation Bias Needed in Business Community



The Citrus County Chamber of Commerce hosted an event called Fire Up Citrus on Tuesday, and while I was unable to attend because I was teaching, I love the idea of it. Modeled loosely off the popular TV show Shark Tank, the event invites pre-screened presenters to pitch ideas to influential people in the local businesses community.


Unlike Shark Tank, there’s no actual investing at the end of the pitch. Like Shark Tank, some excellent ideas come to reality from this event.


I’ve been a board member of the Citrus Construction Academy since its inception in 2017, shortly after our current president pitched it to Fire Up Citrus.


One of the most common refrains I’ve heard on the campaign trail these last five years has been there is nothing to do for younger people. Just Amuse Me in the Crystal River Mall, an ever-growing haven for the younger generation to play, presented at Fire Up Citrus a few years ago.


I would have pitched the Concurrent this year had I been available. The Chamber, an organization I’m often critical of (and today won’t be any different) should be commended for this excellent event.

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The criticism is meant to be constructive rather than malicious. The Chamber is an organization to represent business interests. Any business manager will tell you to criticize in private and praise in public. My problem is that as a commentator I often do the opposite. The Chamber’s problem is that it expects too much of the latter and does not tolerate the former.


The business community is just one subset of countless communities within Citrus County that make this a great place. I am a proud husband of someone who contributes to the arts community as a dance studio owner. When the lines between certain subsets get blurred, however, is when problems can arise.


For example, the Concurrent might sound like a voice in the political community, but that’s not the goal. It is to rather appeal to a community of thinkers who enjoy contemplating large-scale problems through a shift in perspective. A curious community. A community devoted to optimism but dogged by pragmatism. A community unafraid to speak their minds, yet also not too stubborn to change their minds.


The Chamber community is also one that likes to be a voice in the political community. This is the goal of the Chamber even at the national level as advocacy on behalf of businesses is part of the perks of membership. This cost of membership means entry into this community is partly financial, but here locally, it is even more about behavior. I used to think this meant participating in the congratulatory culture.


The congratulatory culture, what I've often referred to as hyper-reciprocity, is not by itself a bad thing. It can, however, motivate the wrong kind of behavior when amplified among a small group.

Imagine a bad idea being presented among a group of people who know they are at least in part in the community that they are because of the praise they give to one another. The chances of this idea passing through critical rigor is low. This is what seems to happen often, but not always, because of the hyper-reciprocal culture.


I used to think the barrier to entry into this culture was humility. To join the ranks of those motivated by congratulations, you must be willing to dole out praise whether it is warranted or not. There is an element of this, but to leave it at only that is a superficial take that sells short some very complex people.


The barrier to entry is conformity. The suppression of competing ideas or efforts. Redundancy is one thing, we see this all the time with new Chamber initiatives that are carbon copies of existing services offered, but nonconformity is discouraged.


This isn’t unique to the Chamber so I don’t want it to sound like I am singling them out. Academia is an exaggerated example of what can happen when community conformity is expected.


Disconfirmation bias, or the threshold in which competing ideas are presented as a critical check on group think, is roughly 3:1 or 4:1 meaning for every four people who believe nearly identically, you should have one person who is a contrarian or ideas don’t get enough scrutiny.


We need to embrace disconfirmation bias in Citrus as long as it is done civilly as an asset to incremental progress rather than a threat to the status quo community.


A 750 word column about Citrus County published every Thursday and Sunday