Inclusive Leadership – Unconscious bias and diversity in organisations

Posted: 8th March 2018

The business case for inclusive leadership, that is, organisational leadership that develops skills that encourage diversity in the workplace is unequivocal. Multiple studies show that handled correctly, diverse teams foster innovation, fuel market growth, challenge ‘group think’ and raise profitability.

Instances of everyday bias abound. Did you know:

  • Supermarket shoppers are more likely to buy more German wine, when German music is playing in the background, and more French wine when the music is French.
  • A group of job applicants with African or Asian sounding names had to send out nearly double the amount of CVs in order to secure a job interview than a commensurately qualified group, with traditional white or Western sounding names.
  • Scientists have been found to rate the effectiveness of female lab technicians lower and plan to pay them less than their equivalently performing male counterparts.
  • Patients treat their doctors differently if the latter are overweight, and vice versa?

Significantly, these are all behaviours that occur without people realising that they are happening, and they have profound implications for the working environment.

At the Møller Institute, we work with senior and aspiring leaders to consider the role of unconscious bias in their decision-making. We show that while bias is a profoundly natural and essential part of the human condition it can lead to consequences that we are entirely unaware of. We help leaders to identify and navigate unconscious judgements in the workplace.

Our programmes draw on new research that connects the functioning of the brain to human biases, and make leaders aware that there are distinctive patterns involved in making automatic impressions and intuitive judgements about people. We show how these can lead to errors and have huge consequences in the recruitment, organisation, retainment, task-allocation and delivery of work teams.

We also show how leaders can negate the unintended consequences of biases, by helping them address their own prejudices and blindspots in order to help their teams think, learn and act inclusively. Far from imposing a straight-jacket on work teams, our approach to diversity is about freeing-up space for courageous thinking and the respectful expression of feedback, difference and ideas.

In short, our approach to diversity enables clients to:

  • Consider their own backgrounds and identities and how they affect meaningful collaboration with co-workers, customers, and other stakeholders
  • Explore the biology of the brain in order to recognise unconscious bias as a natural function of the human mind
  • Uncover patterns of unconscious bias and navigate their impact on decision making
  • Help their organisations develop a shared language of inclusive leadership.