Work Traits

Status Quo Bias

Status quo bias means you prefer to keep things as they are and maintain consistency.
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What is status quo bias?

Status quo bias means you value routine, consistency and stability over disruptive idealism and constant change. You’re happy to assimilate new information with what you already know to make future plans. 

The value of routine and keeping agreements is important to your work and your interaction with others in the workplace. As you place consistency and reliability high on your priority list, you’re able to spot patterns over time and gain insight that others may not be able to. 

You’re comfortable gradually building rapport with others, as well as connecting people within personal networks. You’ll also enjoy holding roles with little change over time, and will likely be loyal to one company or cause for many years. You’re also likely quite good at spotting patterns that others don’t!

We call it: Sameness

Your level of interest and energy for keeping things the same including routine, consistency, stability and agreements.

Success doesn’t come from what you do occasionally, it comes from what you do consistently.

Marie Forleo

Leaders known for a status quo bias

Oliver Sacks

Oliver Sacks

Oliver Sacks was a British neurologist and writer known for his accounts of fascinating cases and conditions within the human brain, most famously in his book The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat.

Sacks’ prolific writing and research output were supported by a strong desire for maintaining a status quo in his endeavors. He went swimming almost daily for his entire life, becoming known for swimming circuits around City Island in the Bronx, his home in New York City. He followed a similar routine every day, with scheduled meals, walks and downtime. 

His creativity was enhanced, rather than hampered, by such similar days - it removed the need to make many decisions and let him focus on what mattered.

Adriene Mishler

Adriene Mishler is an entrepreneur, actress, writer and yoga teacher from Texas, famous for hosting the popular YouTube channel 'Yoga with Adriene’. With over 700 million views of her warm, beginner-friendly instructional yoga videos, she’s one of the most popular online fitness leaders in the world.

As in many YouTube success stories, Adriene had humble beginnings, uploading videos from her home from 2012 onwards. Her appeal lies in consistency; she always broadcasts from a simple, minimal room that will be familiar for most viewers. 500+ videos later following the same style, she has millions of supporters across the world enjoying her friendly and supportive teaching.

Adriene Mishler
Illustration of an author known for a certain trait

David Lynch

David Lynch is an award-winning American filmmaker, painter, musician and actor. He’s well-known for creating the TV series Twin Peaks, along with films such as Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive. He’s known for being artistically adventurous, delivering mind-bending experimental creative works that span multiple genres. 

But this creativity comes from a strong sense of status quo bias that sometimes borders on the mundane. Lynch followed the same routine every day for seven years, ordering the same milkshake and coffee from his favourite diner before writing down his ideas. 

He’s also practiced transcendental meditation every single day since 1973: 

"I meditate once in the morning and again in the afternoon, for about twenty minutes each time. Then I go about the business of my day.”

The benefits of a status quo bias

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Your performance and output should stay relatively constant, as you’ve found out what works and you stick to it.

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Others can rely on you to do things the way they should be done, rather than giving them unexpected situations to deal with.

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Doing things in a similar way over time means you have the ability to pick out patterns that others might not.

The blind spots of a status quo bias

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When challenges appear in your business environment, you might not be quick enough to mitigate them.

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Some changes or pivots may be necessary to thrive but you’ll avoid them, favouring sticking to what you know.

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Your perception in the eyes of others might be unadventurous, risk-averse and maybe even a little boring.

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How to develop a status quo bias

1) Use grounding language.

As a way to keep yourself in the mindset of consistency, try to use words and phrases grounded in established working methods. If your reports and communications include words like ’stability’, ‘in common with’, ‘according to’ and ’similar’, you’re likely in the right frame of mind. 

Tempering adventurous plans with rebuttals like “that’s not how we do things here” or “evidence shows that’s not the most effective way to do things” can bring unrealistic idealists back down to earth. 

Remember, this isn’t about restricting anyone's creativity, it’s about being consistent and applying frameworks over the long term.

2) Temper your impulsivity.

This one isn’t always easy, but can bring some much-needed stability to your daily life and performance in the workplace. When you’re bursting with ideas on new things to try, why not note them down instead of implementing them straight away?

Just like anything else impulsive, ’sleeping on it’ is usually something that provides wisdom and clarity for your decisions. As well as having more time to mull over complex scenarios, it gives you a chance to share challenges with other people and seek their valuable input. 

If you can create a system for this - such as using a certain color of sticky note for your delayed decisions - you might be able to make it stick better.

3) Look for patterns.

You might find that the insight you gain from sticking to things over time can be way more useful than you initially expected. Being able to patch together different incidents of a certain problem and figuring out a pattern you can learn from is really enlightening when you slow down enough to do it. 

Figuring out your response to such challenges can be liberating and raise your profile within your company or organization. Soon enough, you’ll be able to make decisions more quickly based on data you’ve already seen - it’s a kind of superpower.

4) Embrace restrictions.

Putting restrictions on your impulsive, innovative side doesn’t mean you have to turn in your creativity credentials. It simply means you’ll have to reframe them. 

Sure, doing the same work over time can seem a little stifling, but have you considered how you can continue to innovate within that work? Experiment with different approaches to the same method, for example, or continue with your existing process but report on its results differently. 

If you’re responsible for delivering a particular result, you can continue to do that, but at the same time, note down ways to improve the process which you can suggest for the future. There are plenty of ways to be creative within limits.

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