Vancity Credit Union is completing a month of learning about unconscious bias. Partnering with the NeuroLeadership Institute (NLI), all employees are completing online learning and discussing bias within teams. A quick Google search will reveal dozens of articles about how our unconscious bias affects everything we do (and you’ll find Google’s unconscious bias training, too). Biases are helpful and adaptive, but they can also blind us to new perspectives and alternative ways to enhance community potential. Here are three ways to break your bias so that you can have better conversations and build better communities.

Slow down

We live in a world where people use their gut to make decisions on everything from what project to work on to who should be president. There are so many demands for our time and energy that it makes sense for folks to move forward with what feels right as opposed to what the facts or what differing viewpoints might reveal about our decisions. I love getting things done and often strive to get results as quickly and efficiently as possible. However, while such an approach may work well in the short term, it  often crumble over time because more attention wasn’t paid to how the work might be sustained in the long term or if it was even the right thing to do in the first place.

I am breaking this bias by “building in beats”, which means that I take extra seconds, minutes or even days before making a decision. A happy, unintended outcome of this tactic is that I have learned new ways to organize my inbox and my calendar.

Make things closer

We place imbalanced value on things – people, work, decisions – that are physically closer to us. I am a strong believer in flexible work arrangements, so I enthusiastically support team members who work remotely. Inspired by the training, I asked team members who I manage for feedback on what biases I demonstrate the most. I was honestly surprised how a couple of folks very passionately highlighted that my hyper-inclusiveness and penchant for testing big and/or cool ideas with colleagues favours people who are physically in the office. Rarely do people at home or in other buildings share the love (or sometimes new work assignments).

I am breaking this bias by actively including people working from home or other locations in adhoc discussions as well as calling or Skyping them without a formal meeting agenda, which is what I would do if they were sitting outside my office.

Embrace diversity

All too often we make decisions about who to hire or where to invest based on past experiences. You’ve probably heard stories about – or maybe even experienced – people getting hired who look or behave very similarly to whoever hires them. We can retrain our unconscious mind by using our imagination to mitigate our implicit bias for people or projects. For example, the next time you need to make a decision think about one or two people in your life and imagine how they would make the same decision. What’s different? How will this information impact what you do? Diversity of thought is a powerful thing.

I am breaking this bias by creating an imaginary consultancy of people who think, look and behave differently than me – some are friends, like Darran, and some are well known captains of industry, like Jessica Alba. The simple act of imagining different perspectives will change yours.

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