Authenticity Practice #5: Performing bias-ectomy

There are over 100 examples of bias that make our perceptions inaccurate and decision-making irrational. So, what can we do about such a daunting problem? There is no surgery to remove bias, so this is a mental and emotional accomplishment, not a physical one.
There is a useful, although for most of us, unattractive remedy—Surround yourself with people who think and act very differently than you and give them a voice.

Many kinds of bias are rooted in confirmation: I value people who fit an attractive stereotype or who seem like me; I value alternatives that confirm my beliefs and match my preferences; I spend more time reading articles with which I agree than those with which I disagree. When I am surrounded by perspectives unlike my own, confirmation bias has less chance to dominate. Also, a diverse community is more likely to feature diverse forms of bias so we are unlikely to all be irrational about the same things at the same time. Conversely, the way you make a group stupid is to get all to conform to a single way of thinking.

Here are a few bias-ectomy tips:

  • Hire for similarity of purpose and dissimilarity of contribution. It is smart to attract people who are naturally drawn to the contribution your organization is trying to make. However, you want very different ways of thinking and solving regarding the challenges you face.
  • Use big decisions as a field of play for shattering bias. Include different accountabilities, generations, genders, levels of authority, and educational background.
    As you consider alternatives, solicit views from all the different players.

Regarding your vitality imperative, any time you want the differences in a group to make the group smarter, follow this flow:

  1. Name the subject for which you want input and the purpose that is at stake.
  2. Share any known and unarguable facts.
  3. Ask people to write down their individual point of view about what is weak or strong about different options and what each person considers the best path forward. It is crucial to have people think for themselves before you host a public discussion, so do not miss this step!
  4. Have people share their thinking; ask each to promise to say what they wrote and not change it due to what others say before he or she speaks.
  5. Explore and learn from the differences. Ask the accuracy questions (what, who, when, where) and the purpose question, “For you, what is important about this?”
  6. Discuss, debate, and decide. Make sure your purpose-driven criteria are front and center so people argue against the criteria rather than one another.