Dr. Ossie Stuart has a fabulous blog post on the SCIE website today. He's an academic researcher, diversity consultant and trustee of SCIE. His post opens up a whole range of thoughts and questions about unconscious biases, and I'd urge you to read it.
It made me think about two things.
Firstly, there is a significant amount of research and good practice literature out there on debiasing for organisations, most of which is rarely used in organisations which claim to want to enable a more diverse workforce or to make fewer unconsciously biased decisions. This could include simply removing names from CVs when they are being reviewed or using some of the work of Kahneman and Tversky on scoring interviews. The Law Society has recently published some guidance on this for the recruitment of trainee solicitors.
But secondly, as Dr Stuart implies, this gets trickier when you step a bit further away from big organisations (which struggle at the best of times) and move the burden of decision making onto individuals or smaller, perhaps more voluntary, groups. This is happening across our public sector in areas much wider than social care.
Whilst I agree with Dr. Stuart that acknowledging your biases is an important first step, I don't think it's easy or enough. As well as thinking about debiasing, we also need to think about using the learning from Nudge to build systems which don't rely on all decision makers continually checking their biases (and privilege). And perhaps to go further from that into exploring the role of choice architecture (as the Kings Fund did in hospital choices) to really ensure that we do as much as possible to reduce the biases within our systems. Everybody is unconsciously biased, but very few people want to be. The job is to help them make better decisions that respond to real-world thinking and experiences.
to be aware that you, like me, do harbour unconscious biases