BS in Business: Why biological blind spots matter in business

One of the most frequent questions I get asked is, “what do biological blind spots and bias have to do with business?” In other words, “why should I care if I’m subconsciously a bit biased like everyone else?”

 Blind spots are everywhere in business

Blind spots are everywhere in business

The short answer is that without awareness of your blind spots, you could be undermining your performance as well as the performance of your colleagues. When people first think about implicit bias, most default to a discussion around skin color, but your biological blind spots go far beyond black and white (and all of the other skin variations we leave out of the discussion).

Your brain has a pre-programmed bias for race, gender, age, class, thinking style... you name it!  Whatever the bias, your brain has categorized it and made associations that “fit,” based upon an archaic formula that still primes you to crave fats and sugars despite the insane abundance in the modern environment.

 It's not your fault kid....blame that anscestral brain. 

It's not your fault kid....blame that anscestral brain. 

Our stone-aged brain and the biases it subconsciously creates which drive our behaviors is, to put it mildly,  out of touch.

 The result is that your team suffers from these micro-level inter-company level competitions ultimately hurting your ability to compete where you want to - on the bigger market. The worst part is, your team (and you personally) won’t even recognize that you are doing it.

 Not exactly the culture you want to build in your organization.

Not exactly the culture you want to build in your organization.

Aside from team efficacy, productivity and collaborative efforts, one of the biggest risks to business is homogeneity. While the ability to create a homogeneous product may be beneficial, a lack of diversity on the  team doing the creating can be hugely detrimental to the health and sustainability of a business.

 Sorry Ron Burgandy....we can do better. 

Sorry Ron Burgandy....we can do better. 

I like to make an analogy to the stability of an environment based on biodiversity. If you as a company are established like Ireland in 1845 and only have a single crop, you've made yourself extraordinarily vulnerable to any blind spot, or disease, wiping you off the face of the map. To avoid mass starvation in your company, plant some other crops. New perspectives.

Obviously, diversity can produce an influx of new ideas and approaches to problems, but more interesting to me is that the mere presence of a diverse work team creates an air of discomfort. Our brains were programmed to be happy with our ingroups - people who looked, acted, behaved and were essentially carbon copies of us. When you put people together who don't fit that mold, our brains get....well....nervous.

Uncomfortable.

 Go ahead and get ....uncomfortable. 

Go ahead and get ....uncomfortable. 

Low level discomfort like this actually promotes better problem solving as tensions are discussed openly. A recent study demonstrates that homogeneous groups, are more confident in their decisions, even though they are more often wrong in their conclusions, while a diverse group's members will feel less confident despite being more accurate in their conclusions.

Confirmation bias and squelching of new ideas in homogeneous groups produces a false "feel-good we are all in this together" perspective that can render disastrous outcomes.  

Feeling good in business is overrated.

Just like working out the muscles in our body, having those uncomfortable discussions that hurt our brains a bit is the only way we grow and the only we can can start to uncover our own BS.