Being unconsciously biased isn’t because we’re unaware. Or uninformed. Or unmotivated to do the right thing.
It’s a biology thing with our brains. And it’s big.
According to Josh, the Director of Research and Lead Professor for the Neuroleadership Institute (including being my main professor), scientists have identified more than 150 types of biases.
Once you know that bias is built into our brains, it’s a liberating feeling. At least that’s been the case for many of my classmates and me who have studied bias as part of our applied neuroscience curriculum.
As we say in the South, it’s a type of “Bless your heart” moment.
That doesn’t mean that we act like prejudicial or discriminating morons.
Hardly! Instead, we accept responsibility for our brain’s deficiency in this area and adopt specific processes that prevent us from acting on our biases.
Thanks to the ground-breaking work the Neuroleadership Institute has performed, we can train our brain to remember the five SEEDS™ of bias and the countermeasures to overcome them.
From the Institute, these five categories cover the 150+ types of biases:
- Similarity: “People like me are better than others.”
- Expedience: “If it feels right it must be true.”
- Experience: “My perceptions are accurate.”
- Distance: “Closer is better than distant.”
- Safety: “Bad is stronger than good.”
According to the Neuroleadership Institute, the three countermeasures that are proving the most effective to mitigate the bad behaviors and decisions that unconscious bias creates are:
- Use decision guides, such as step-by-step protocols. (In their book Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, the Heath Brothers explained that having a set process for making decisions outweighed thorough analysis for making good decisions by a factor of six! For more about this, check out this blog post, Be decisive: Make bigger, bolder decisions.)
- Design preventive measures, such as removing triggers that are likely to activate biases.
- Build “if /then” plans, such as “If (or when) this situation arises, then I/we will do this.”
How do you operationalize this and make it work?
Based on my experiences, it’s better to spend your time, energy and resources learning how to manage biases rather than learning the ins and outs of unconscious bias.
That’s because knowing about unconscious bias doesn’t protect you from bad behavior, such as taking short cuts, protecting the status quo, going with the safe choice, or playing the waiting game and running out the clock so you don’t have to make a decision.
By the way, when you know about these processes and consistently use them you’re much better equipped to deal with the unconscious biases that are especially insidious around inclusiveness and diversity in the workplace. These biases often prevent teams from adding members who are diverse in terms of skill sets, backgrounds and other attributes.
So don’t fight unconscious bias; instead learn how to work around it.
And if you’re kind to your brain and use tools that will help it avoid biases, you’ll be able to make better choices and decisions.
Are you ready to bless your biased brain and help it plant seeds that will prevent problems?