Tip #847:  How to Overcome Unconscious Bias

“In order to create real change, we need to understand unconscious bias as a fundamental social justice issue that gives birth to all kinds of -isms in our society, not some standalone concept that is nice-to-know.” Michelle Kim

Neal Goodman has written a very thoughtful article that identifies Ten Steps to Overcome Unconscious Bias.  If you haven’t seen the article, I think his suggestions are worth hearing.

Here are his ten steps:

  1. Set realistic expectations that training can raise consciousness but not eliminate all bias.
  2. Provide the training in-person because the topic requires “interaction, trust, and the opportunity for people to meet in a safe environment.”
  3. Select a facilitator who is passionate about the topic and might be part of an underrepresented group. ”Trainers should be highly qualified and well-versed in the social psychology of attitude formation, be excellent and empathetic facilitators, and have a nonthreatening and inclusive style that avoids guilt trips.”
  4. Plan several short sessions or at least a one full day of training.
  5. Incorporate unconscious bias assessment tools, such as Project Implicit, but make sure that trainees do not misinterpret the results.
  6. Have the training focus on real situations, “such as reviewing resumes, conducting interviews, or responding to customers.”
  7. Use proven simulations, role plays and other interactive exercises that help people take the perspective of others.
  8. Identify statements that groups find offensive and discuss why.
  9. Provide “debiasing counter-stereotyping activities. Make associations that go counter to existing stereotypes (male nurses, female scientists, elderly athletes, and the like.)”
  10. Address the topic of in-group favoritism and how it operates in organizations to show how “a lack of diversity creates group-think, while diverse viewpoints result in more creativity and innovation.”

I think that we should add some implementation and action planning steps to this training outline:

  1. Practice recognizing hidden biases at play in daily activities, particularly where the situations or decisions may seem at first glance to be bias-free.
  2. Commit to noticing biases at play and taking steps to eliminate them.

Mr. Goodman points out that:

“It is unrealistic to expect that our unconscious biases, which have taken years to develop, will melt away after a single training program. Follow-up training or coaching will help to reinforce the original training. Metrics that demonstrate changes in behavior, such as the percentages of underrepresented candidates selected for development programs, should be a part of any follow-up to demonstrate the commitment to take action.”

How is your organization addressing unconscious bias?

May your learning be sweet- and safe.


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