writing the word fragile on a moving box

There's a good reason why an invisible habit is hard to break

Life’s busy – no surprises there – so over time, we all develop habits and routines to help get stuff done, fast.

These decision-shortening processes continue to develop throughout our lifetime. It’s not long until we all develop our own unconscious implicit bias about people we like, situations we don’t, and how to see the world.

The result is regardless of how impartial we think we are, we all have implicit bias hiding in our subconscious.

The problem is what you don’t know can hurt you (and your business).

In this article

Put it another way

If Cujo the neighbourhood rabid hell-hound foams at the mouth and suddenly runs towards you with bared teeth, your subconscious decision-making process will inevitably determine your next move.

Your predetermined bias to run-like-the-wind kicks in and your legs respond; no conscious choice is needed.

Implicit bias helps us all get through life faster, (particularly the mundane parts) but what happens when these biases make automatic key decisions towards people without our knowing? If left unexamined can they sabotage our ability to see opportunities in life and business?

Just how safe is it to allow them more power and control over our lives than they were ever designed to have?

There are several ways we can all correct for our own biases in ourselves, and in our business processes:

1. Recognise the individuality

Deliberately put yourself in the shoes of the other person to understand how an outsider to your group, profession, or team might see you and why.

Look for a way to see the individual and not the group, and look to recognise people for their individual attributes, traits, and abilities rather than those based upon a stereotypical group. Remember not every Millennial knows how to Snapchat, not every LGBTQIA+ person loves the music of Whitney Houston, and not every man who wears a turban can play cricket like a pro.

2. Seek out ways to build regular interactions with different people

Look for ways to build regular meaningful and positive interactions into your teamwork. You could network with a business colleague and have both your teams meet for regular BBQs, volunteer work or family, and partner-friendly activities. The more time spent enjoying the company of members of other racial and social groups, the quicker anxiety and stereotyping around difference seems to dissolve.

3. Build the positive procedures into your documented systems

Incorporate anti-bias ideas and procedures into your policies and procedures. The worldwide B Corp. movement recently released its own Best Practice Guide for diversity and inclusion in business. If you don’t yet have your own D&I guidelines, you can download theirs and incorporate that into your own business module.

4. Know what your own trigger points are

Get to know your own trigger points to implicit bias and seek feedback from a trusted colleague so you can model the behaviour you want to see in your business.

  • When looking to correct for the implicit bias that resides in us all, recognise the measurable financial risks of losing access to needed insight and resources and the damage to workforce engagement and performance.

It’s not about forcing people to change their core beliefs, only their actions at work. Focus on the benefit of the end result rather than a holier-than-thou-moral outcome.

The last word

Whether due to enlightened self-interest or the heart of the transformational business – the only bias you need is the one that benefits your team and positions you and your business for success.

Drew Browne Modern Small Business thought-provocateur
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