Product Managers Bias and How To Avoid Them

omamuzo Samson
3 min readJan 16, 2021

As a product manager, it’s a given that you’ve to be analytical. It is the expectation. However, it is also good to note that there are biases you would have to deal with — knowingly or unknowingly — every time there is a decision to make.

Here’s the thing; ‘we are all biased’. And that’s one thing we do not willingly agree to because in line with your JD you should always favour data to opinion.

For instance, we tend to think people (our users) think the same way we do. Therefore we expect certain behaviours from them and assume they are behaving like that, instead of looking at their behaviour vs. our expectations.

Once you realize that the world is organized by jobs to be done, you understand that product life cycles don’t exist — Clayton Christensen

Let us look at one of the types of bias we face and how we can deal with them: Affinity Bias

Affinity Bias:

Have you noticed people tend to get along with people that are more like them? Like a pack of herds do. The familiarity phenomenon. It happens every day in our lives — we just have to pay a little attention to know.

Even in hiring, we are most likely to hire someone that is more like us. The HR folks even have a name for it — ‘culture fit’.

Affinity bias is the tendency to get along with others who are like you. They are the people you trust and like, before everyone else.

Because that is what we can easily relate to. We recognize a pattern and presume it won’t cost us much to flow with this person.

Howbeit, as a product manager, when you are making a decision you’re likely to want to focus on what seems familiar to you. It happens when you are looking at your data — you are inclined to see the data you already know — and probably expecting.

In your head, you already know the users’ behaviour and you only look at what you know. This can blind you to any new behaviour a user might have developed or a new way the user is using your product.

How to avoid affinity bias:

+ Know your customer and how they are using your product — intimately. Never assume.

+ Don’t be overly dependent on your inner circles. This is important especially when you’re carrying out your research. Your inner circle is probably just like you.

+ Engage, engage, engage… always. How often do you talk to your users? Do you wait until there’s a huge spike in an activity?

This is not an exhaustive list on how you can deal with affinity bias, but it’s a good place to start.

From discovery to launch, we can see this bias come into play and we have to ensure it doesn’t rule the day. And we have to be careful so we can find a balance between thinking for your users so you can be one step ahead and expecting your users to act familiarly because that’s who you are.

How to start? As you look at the data, constantly ask yourself: ‘Is this what the user is doing or how I thought the user is doing?’

As someone says — numbers don’t lie. Just take a look one more time and you’d see a pattern and if you follow the pattern to where it leads, it can be the Holy Grail to nail that product and deliver into the hand of the user what they truly want and deserve.

The common question that gets asked in business is, ‘why?’ That’s a good question, but an equally valid question is, ‘why not?’ — Jeff Bezos

After all, that’s cumulative of the job cut out for us as product managers — make your users happy so they can get their job done.

Image: unsplash



omamuzo Samson

I’m a product manager and marketer helping to scale startup and technology products — driving demand, leads, growth and revenue.