Anyone interested in or studying the economic environment of today’s organizations knows that future performance requires innovation and the attraction of the best talent, which requires inclusion and diversity as part of the mix. Different thinking is key to challenging old ways of doing things, and coming up with new ideas, and so it is key to agility and innovation. Fairness and equity in decision making is also well known as a huge contributor to the essential trust in an organization needed for innovation and agility to thrive.
It is interesting then that even well-meaning managers and leaders can still skew their thinking when it comes to the decisions they make about hiring and promoting, giving opportunity to and working with, those who are different from them. For example a leader choosing a team to work with them on a new and interesting project, often chooses the team based on who they are comfortable working with, who they have worked with before and people whose expertise they trust. But this is often based on poor information.
Looking under the covers, one finds often that these leaders or managers can be unknowingly unfair to those who are different from them. By different I mean gender, culture, background, or even education. What can be shocking is when we discover that we use stereotypes regularly to make decisions like these. What can also be surprising is that we have a number of other biases of which we are unaware. So in decision-making we are unaware of all the facts, we are not seeing clearly, and our decisions are subject to our (unknown) worldview and our previous experience.
Because of our basic ingroup-outgroup cognitive behaviours we tend to see those in our own group (class, education, gender) as better than they are and those in an outgroup as less than they are. Stereotypes apply too, when for example we think one ethnic group or gender are less suitable, committed or less hard working than they could be. We are often not aware that this is how we think and need to understand that in life we have been categorizing and grouping things, people and events into groups and assigning characteristics to them as a survival mechanism. Our experiences are subjective (ours alone) and so too experiences – so in fact experience can sometimes be a disadvantage.
Tony DeMello once said that “Once you name a tree as a tree you never see a tree again.” What you see from then on is your image of the first tree and you forget that each tree is different and unique. This mechanism frames and underpins how we see the world. Self-awareness is key to getting to grips with this. When you see what you are doing as part of your thought process you can make better decisions. If you become aware of it your decisions become better and fairer. Check your worldview folks.
Aidan Higgins BE MBA MSc (Psych) is the founder of ADEO Consulting Ltd and a Leadership, Emotional Intelligence and Teamwork specialist and Coach, who has worked with leaders and teams at all levels of the private and public sectors. He has over 30 years experience working in various capacities with individuals, teams and organisations of all sizes. He is the author of LeadFromYou – We need aware, authentic and emotionally intelligent leaders. – now available in Paperback and Kindle on Amazon and in audiobook form via Audible and iTunes.