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An opportunity to check out your unconscious bias

Our backgrounds, personal experiences, education and upbringing give us our values and beliefs.

The term unconscious bias refers to the biases we have of which we are not in conscious control. These occur automatically, triggered by our brain making those quick judgments and assessments of people and situations. We make these without thinking, often with minimal, inaccurate or incorrect information.

Here’s an opportunity to check out your own unconscious bias. Remember Monica Lewinsky? She was the Whitehouse intern who was at the eye of a political storm due to her relationship with her then boss, President Bill Clinton.

Monica Lewinsky has recently spoken about her past, the impact this has had on her life and how others have also suffered shame in the public eye. I invite you to watch the video below. It lasts for just over 22 minutes and is well worth watching in its own right.

As you watch Monica Lewinsky tell her own story, ask yourself how your unconscious biases are challenged. After you have watched the video, ask if your view of her has changed and, if so, what persuaded you to change your mind.

The accepted view of unconscious bias is that we all possess this phenomenon. We have built up our biases over time to help us to process information quickly and efficiently. Unconsciously, we tend to like people who look like us, think like us and come from backgrounds similar to our own. We all like to think that we are open-minded and remain objective.

From a survival perspective, possessing bias is a hard-wired, positive and necessary trait. However, in business an unconscious bias can be costly. It can cause us to make decisions that are not objective and ultimately we can miss opportunities.

If this is the case, then we need to become aware of our biases and manage them. Unconscious bias affects every area of our lives, in business and in private. What unconscious biases do you have?

Paul Beesley, senior consultant, Beyond Theory

1 Comment

  1. Steve Dudley on March 30, 2015 at 10:22 am

    Very powerful and very thought provoking. Certainly opens up a new perspective to this well know incident and also now see it in a very different light.

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