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I’ve recently been conducting research related
to bias in interviewing and hiring and in doing so uncovered some excellent and
surprising information on how to build a greater awareness of ones bias in the
hiring process. This research has also unintentionally helped me develop
a more acute awareness of the role of bias and it’s influence not only in
hiring but also beyond.
On a personal level, it’s become clear to me --
in fact painfully so -- that though I thought myself to be an open-minded
person, I in fact have deeper, more influential biases than I realized or
frankly care to admit.
Bias in its basic definition is described in a
negative light; but in its purest form does not have to be seen as such.
It can be equated in the same vein as discerning (a positive term)
because in the end it’s all about that -- making a judgment based on certain
criteria and we know the better the judgment the better the outcome.
When you look at the source of bias and how it
is developed, here is where the dilemma surfaces. Whatever bias or
preferences you have in any situation has been shaped and cultivated from your
collective life experience or life conditioning. That conditioning has shaped
who you are, crafted your capabilities, molded your beliefs, tested your values
all through the filter of your innate wiring -- which some call personality.
It’s that conditioning that has made you the leader you are today and in that you
could say your bias (part of your conditioning) on some level has served your
success. And yet, that same collective experience -- where your bias resides
can unknowingly work against you and those you lead.
One of the most popular areas of professional
development for which I conduct seminars is creative and innovative thinking.
It’s an area that the IBM Institute for Business Values proclaimed through a
survey of 1,500 CEOs as one of the most important leadership competency.
In fact Richard Florida in his book, Rise of the Creative Class states,
“Ideas are the new commodity of the 21st century.” Most of today’s
leaders would agree!
And yet, giving attention to your ideas, deeming
them credible as well as the ideas of others can easily be undermined by your
very own bias. Perhaps you’ve discounted an idea because of the person
delivering it. Your bias towards their appearance, personality or even current
work performance has you judging the value of the idea before it’s even been
uttered accompanied by this thought, “Surely this person can’t come up with a
Or, because of past experience or past
conditioning a potential solution pops into your mind and is quickly discounted
with the phrase, “that probably won’t work.” (Mind you, it hasn’t been tested
The dilemma of bias is that the very benefits of
bias aka discernment, which has supported and enhanced your leadership
capabilities can also be the source of being close-minded, judgmental,
discounting potential talent or value as fast as a Blink as referenced
in Malcolm Gladwell’s book. The result is you become the unconscious victim of your
own success. Yes, your success can limit your success and bias can play a
role in that.
I believe an essential practice of a growing
leader is nurturing a keen awareness of the role bias plays in how they lead
and manage their own talent and the talent of others and ultimately the
profitability of their company.Notice
I said a “growing” leader. To grow and be creative and innovative, you’ll
need to be willing to stretch beyond your current preferences or biases.
Let’s not sabotage the exciting possibilities
that await all of us by not owning and managing as best we can the presence of
bias. Other articles: Is Bias Undermining Your Hiring