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  • Writer's pictureDarryl Buckle


We’re at a critical season at Redwood these last few months.

We’ve entered into a significant time of recruiting a new generation of leaders. As we have been looking for these key people we have been talking as a staff team about the traits that we are looking for.

A term that we have heard recently (by Bill Hybels) is the trait of a bias for action. Hybels was using to describe initiative and the idea of overcoming delays by going to extra distance (Hybels would rather take the stairs instead of take a slow elevator).

This discussion has had me quite interested so i’ve been researching the idea of a Bias for action a bit.

The Business Dictionary defines Bias for Action as the Propensity to act or decide without customary analysis or sufficient information ‘just do it’ and contemplate later. This definition comes from Tom Peter’s Search for Excellence.

Don Sull writes an interesting post here on Peter’s idea of a Bias for action

I found helpful his cautions regarding a dysfunctional bia.

Managers often invoke a bias for action to bypass sense-making and dive into the concrete details of execution. A dysfunctional bias for action is endemic among “take-charge” or “gung-ho” executives who excel at getting things done, but dread the open-ended discussions required to understand situations where complexity, ambiguity, and incomplete data preclude easy answers. To avoid this discomfort, they bypass discussions to make sense and dive right into making choices or working out the details of implementation. By jumping too quickly to discussions on how to take the hill, however, these teams often end up attacking the wrong hill.

In my exploration of this i also stumbled upon a book called Bias for Action by Heike Bruch and Sumantra Ghoshal that takes a bit of a different spin. The book is about willpower–how to develop it in your individual work life and how to push your organization to develop collective willpower so that action, not complacency, is the standard. The Authors do make a critical distinction in Bias for Action, which is to differentiate between real action and the busy idleness which characterizes so many managers. Purposeful action is limited to those actions that actually (and perhaps obviously) get you closer to the goals of the organization.

All of this thinking has been helpful for me because i’m continually being reminded of my personal tendencies.

I love to think Big picture – often at the expense of the details. I love to explore new ideas -often at the expense of finishing present projects. I have recently come out of an environment where i had through years of hard work and development worked myself into a position where i could really focus on my strengths – I had a team of awesome people who worked around me on those things that i’m not strong at but which coincidentally they were.

I haven’t figured out when my bias for action conflicts with my bias for people I haven’t figured out when my bias for action keeps someone else in our organization from doing what they are passionate about I haven’t figured out when my bias for action should take a back seat to careful and thoughtful consideration before it is released from the gate.

But this i hear clearly.

I want to be a man who produces real fruit. I want my days to be filled with the kind of action that produces real fruit. I want to take as many people with me as possible.

I’ve got a lot to learn, and i’m so thankful for the people striving to build these things in me.


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