Description: Surfacing, confronting and questioning your explicit biases (assumptions that you know that you make*) and understanding how these biases influence your ability to make consistently sound decisions.
* Like assuming that Ivy League-educated job candidates are more likely to succeed in your company.
Thinking Partner Notes
What’s the fiction: All of my known biases are rational, well-informed and useful.
What's really true: We’re all prone to taking mental shortcuts based on limited experiences and impartial data. Especially when acting under pressure.
Example: Hugo was in his late 50’s and intolerant of people who wavered verbally and didn’t communicate with absolute certainty. Phrases like: “On one hand we could do this, on the other we might try…” drove him crazy. He would then ignore that person, thinking they were unsure of themselves and didn’t have enough confidence to properly speak their opinions. Unfortunately this resulted in several junior people around him feeling unvalued and they described him as difficult to have in meetings, rigid and all-knowing. During his thinking partnership session exploring the different ways we each communicate and process information, he discovered that for some, to talk a problem out or verbally explore a situation from many angles was their natural way of thinking. What he perceived as a weakness–talking it out–was actually a necessary process for some people to become clear. While his natural communication bias was to speak in clear terms and headlines, this wasn’t true for everyone. The next time someone did this, instead of discounting them, he actually leaned in and supported them: “Let me help you weigh out all the options and think this through.” Having awareness of his bias helped him become a key mentor within the company instead of someone people avoided.
Things to try: A) Practice recognizing the biases (positive and negative) that you rely-on to make key decisions; B) Practice separating decision-making information into things you know, things you think and things you don’t know; C) Practice questioning your known biases with others.
Next steps: 1) Take some time to consider your biases (strongly held beliefs). Like academic biases (e.g. Ivy Leagues > State Schools), professional biases (e.g. Management consultants can’t operate a business), or social biases (e.g. I can’t get along with former football players) 2) Select up to five of these biases and describe them in a journal; 3) Now spend two minutes on each bias, considering why and how you’ve formed each opinion. Was it a specific interaction?; 4) Once you’ve identified the memory, spend a few minutes writing about the interaction that shaped this particular bias.