Wolf Alexanyan

51 / Cognitive Bias and Software Development


Without mental shortcuts to help, there’s no way product managers could process the daily waves of information coming at us. We apply these shortcuts, called cognitive biases, to drive efficiency in how we perceive and respond to the world around us. But when we’re unaware of, or not sensitive to, these biases (that exist naturally within us, by the way), well, that’s when we make mistakes. Mistakes that manifest in our lives as product people as well as is our everyday lives as humans bumping along in our own existence.

In this episode of the ITX Product Momentum Podcast, Sean and Paul welcome Wolf Alexanyan, Head of Product Management at The Software Development Company. Fresh off 2+ years of research regarding cognitive biases, Wolf recently published two significant works in our space: The Science of User Experience, which explains the importance of using our brain’s errors and biases to develop software product solutions, and UX CORE, a compilation of 105 hands-on examples of cognitive biases used in software development and team management.

“When I was working on UX Core,” Wolf says, “I wanted to show people not just how to use the biases to relate to others and protect yourself from being manipulated, but to show how powerful our brain is.

The moment we understand how to get in touch with our own cognitive biases is the moment we seize the power to make positive changes in our own lives as both human beings and product people. As Wolf explains, the power lies within each of us.

“This is the most important thing: if we focus on ourselves and spend some time just to understand the errors that we have – instead of trying to understand the capabilities of the world and opportunities that arise – we will benefit from that much more, much more.

Tune in to hear Wolf describe the role ego plays in cognitive bias, with specific reference to the Dunning-Kruger Effect, and hear him explain why the “Blind Spot Bias” is the one that new product managers need to learn and understand before all others.

Wolf’s Recommended Reading:

Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman.

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

About Wolf

Wolf Alexanyan is the Head of Product Management at The Software Development Company, working on lawful cyber intelligence systems. For the first half of his 12-year career, he worked as a technical specialist, after which he shifted to management. Wolf has led the research and design of such products as the eSports gaming ecosystem, air operator’s registry system for the General Department of Civil Aviation of Armenia, the world’s first levitating camera.

His main passion is studying different cognitive science disciplines to understand patterns of human behavior and thinking. He has recently finished 2.5 years of research regarding cognitive biases and published his work in two pieces. The Science of User Experience explains the importance of using our brain’s errors and biases in developing solutions for software products and development teams, and “UX CORE” consists of 105 hands-on examples of cognitive biases used in software development and team management.

He sincerely believes that humanity is on the verge of a cognitive revolution. Although cognitive biases are most used in the development of political and digital products, regular people can reap enormous benefits if they take the time to study their own biases and beliefs.

Visit Wolf’s website with his notes about project and product management: https://keepsimple.io/

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