Do you have any hidden biases? I discovered that I do and I realized that biases could be holding me back!
The more we study innovation the more we are learning that differences in ideas and thinking make for better, stronger, more innovative teams. We are also learning that innovation comes through inclusion. A good friend of mine, Martha Feeback with Catalyst, often says, “The difference between diversity and inclusion? Diversity is being asked to the party. While inclusion is being asked to dance. Inclusion is an environment where every person is equally respected, which consequentially encourages ALL people to learn, share, develop, and grow, and thus inclusion drives innovation.
How easy is inclusion? And what about hidden biases?
It’s a natural thing for human beings to be attracted to those like them, and it is also natural for anyone to steer clear of those that give off a different vibe. Research shows that our brains are wired for judgments. But, actually, it is a survival tool. Think back to the days of the caveman when he was out looking for food and came across a group of other cavemen around a water hole. Our caveman had to make a decision instantly whether they were friends or “white walkers,” killing all in their path. Our brains instantly signal us—beware of what is unknown and run!
Unconscious biases are natural, as we all have them, and we are naturally attracted to those most like us. It’s in our DNA.
Many times, when I am speaking for a group, I am asked to attend their pre-opening cocktail or social event. I have to admit that attending these activities is not my most favorite thing to do. Because I am always alone and only know one person in the room, the meeting planner. When I enter, I automatically look for cues from the crowd, instinctively scanning the room looking for friendly faces, for someone like me who I might want to sit next to.
That said, biases are getting in the way of our growth and our success as a community, organization, and a nation (witness Ferguson, Missouri, and Trayvon Martin).
So the obvious question is: “If we all have biases and even unconscious biases so, how can we overcome the judgments?”
The first step in this process of being able to be more thoughtful and open is to accept and understand that we all have these biases. That we don’t have to be ashamed of them, and we don’t have to feel guilty about them, but we need to take responsibility for them.
The next step is to understand that your brain wants to move fast and take a short cut to connecting, and it is in this fast /quick thinking mode that we stereotype, making assumptions and quick associations about others. So, all we have to do is apply the brakes to the bias thinking and slow our brains down.
When we slow ourselves down, we are admitting that we are starting to judge, and this process of awareness helps you change your reaction. Slowly, you will begin to notice more and gradually move the judgments aside.
Another way we can slow down the biases is to look at another person’s point of view. If you watch Fox News or MSNBC all the time, you are feeding your brain with that one point of view. It might be helpful if you tried listening to the opposite news stations once a week, to gain insight into how others think and process the information they are receiving.