Can we rely on scientific training to eliminate or at least reduce poor decisions resulting from unconscious bias? Apparently not.
As our understanding of unconscious bias increases and deepens, we are learning two important things: firstly, that these biases intrude into areas that we might imagine as being insulated; secondly, we are understanding which sorts of programs work to reduce the deleterious effects of unconscious bias and which do not.
On the first point, one example is that comprehensive studies show that women are often not getting the right or adequate medical treatment because clinical research focuses on men’s ailments and also because biases lead to women’s health complaints being downplayed or ignored. On the second point, a current article in HBR confirms that misguided or unskilled forms of anti-biasing training can be counter-productive and actually further entrench biases.
Training that is successful involves awareness-raising; education on the pre-eminent forms of bias in the workplace and equipping participants with tools and skills to recognise and counteract unconscious biases. In addition, organisations should introduce systemic processes which counteract bias, measure improvements, encourage employees to engage with diverse groups and nurture curiosity. These recommendations align very well with the programs that Symmetra has been using with clients across the globe. The conclusion is, thus, no area of decision-making is free of biases and sound anti-biasing training is fundamental for effective decisions at every level of the organisation.