Unconscious organizational biases close off opportunities and hide weaknesses, an unseen wind holding you back. Everyone, every collection of individuals, every organization has them. Leaders’ biases create the most impact.
Unconscious biases affect perceptions, interpretations, preferences, and selective attention; collectively directing what you choose to do and not do. They impact whom you hire (or not); whom you serve (or not); how you benefit people (or not); what you do (or not); how well you do things (or not); and, how you grow (or not).
Exposing unconscious biases is challenging. You need to step out of your normal thinking and ask questions in order to articulate your beliefs. Dig deep to unearth why you believe and act in certain ways. Ask all stakeholders.
Inside the organization, people should ask about their processes:
- Why do we do it that way?
- What other ways have we not considered?
- Why do we feel that way?
Consider your organization’s diversity and ask, “Do we represent the makeup of our community?” and “What assumptions and perceptions have led to this mixture?”
These questions allow clients and other stakeholders to share the biases they observe:
- Whom and what do we seem to ignore?
- What are we not providing that we should deliver?
- In what ways do we seem to be biased?
Reveal unconscious strategic biases, by looking at changes in clients’ ages, finances, diversity, gender, culture, and disabilities over the past 5 years. Compare that information to how your organization has changed what it provides. This is an opportunity to meet unfolding new needs and wants.
“Whom do we not serve and why?” helps you to identify biases that are holding you back, and establish a long-term vision and mission to escape them, by serving a larger, more diverse client base.
Looking at past shortfalls and ask:
- What did we do incorrectly or not well enough to cause this?
- Why? (asking five or more times will dig down to answer)
- What kept us from seeing this?
As your biases become clear, train people in every part of the organization to overcome them and move forward.
Unveiling your organization’s biases and acting to take advantage of new insights, will help you feel a wind at your back, pushing you in new directions toward becoming a better, more successful organization.