What does this mean for inclusion?
What do you do when you don’t have all of the information that you need to make a decision? Many of us would like to think that we consciously search for information to fill in the blanks before settling on an answer. In reality, this isn’t the case: instead, we are much more likely to subconsciously (and, critically, sometimes incorrectly) fill in the gaps because we often don’t even see the gaps in our knowledge in the first place (bias blind spot).
The notion of heuristics and cognitive biases have helped us to explain our tendency to make errors of judgement when making quick decisions in the face of uncertainty. Heuristics (first coined by Kahneman and Tversky in the 1970s) are short-cuts or “rules of thumb” that help make our decision-making more efficient. Cognitive biases are the errors that we make as a result of applying heuristics. Psychologists and behavioural economists have shown that cognitive biases can explain suboptimal individual and group responses to personal, business and social issues ranging from inequality to climate change to the obesity epidemic.
Biases and decision-making
The COVID-19 pandemic has catapulted us into a heightened pace of change. Abrupt disruptions to the status quo, information overload, and generalised anxiety provide additional stressors as employees reorient themselves to new ways of working. During this uncertainty, our blind spots and biases are more prevalent in our decision-making as we grapple with separating fact from fiction, a desire to make sense of the situation, the need to act quickly and the limits of our own memory. In this article, we want to press the pause button to help you reflect, scrutinise and mitigate potential biases that may ultimately impair decision-making and harm your business.
Below are 5 of the most common biases in business and the impact they may have on your business today:
Biases in interpersonal interactions
As we embrace virtual working, cognitive biases can have an even greater negative impact on our interpersonal relationships – in particular, on team members, and colleagues from minority underrepresented groups. Social biases are likely to manifest in new ways and embed themselves into the way we work remotely. These could range from checking in with colleagues you are ‘closer to’ more often or not providing an employee with email or telephone feedback because it is more time consuming than saying it face-to-face. These types of bias manifestation are all likely to impact feelings of belonging and career progression. What can you do to ensure that cognitive biases are not creating additional barriers within your organisation? Asking yourself the following questions is a good starting point:
In summary, times of uncertainty and information overload create the perfect opportunity for cognitive biases and blind spots to creep into our decision-making and interpersonal interactions. Take the time to assess the way that you and your team are working both independently and collectively to ensure that all information is shared equally, that all team members are rewarded and recognised, and that decisions are made based on the full picture.
Our team of behavioural experts is ready to support you to further explore your decision-making and interpersonal interactions during these uncertain times. As part of our Open Mind Series, we offer Thought Leadership insights and evidence-based webinars on the key business challenges you are facing today in inclusion and diversity. Let us help you keep your people development and D&I strategies on track with our digital and live virtual learning solutions.
Delta provides evidence-based, bespoke solutions for diversity and inclusion business needs. We offer research and insights, inclusive culture ‘building blocks’ through virtual and in-person workshops for workplace groups across the business, ecosystem programmes to embed change for meeting strategic D&I objectives, and culturally intelligent executive coaching.