An evidence-based model for Unconscious Biases

Insights about Unconscious Biases can be eye-opening – but does this translate into robust and sustained change? And how many biases do we need to cover to remove all relevant D&I barriers? In the sheer opaque hustle and bustle of frameworks, we offer an evidence-based, yet practical model to mitigate D&I-related biases on multiple levels and through the use of Inclusive Leadership.

Unconscious bias was considered a silver bullet to overcome D&I-related barriers for a few years. However, while empirical evidence and mitigation strategies exist, many companies experience limited or temporary success.

All the biases that act as barriers for D&I

Unlike many bias models, we strictly focus our scope and content on what is required from a D&I perspective, i.e. when companies want to make the most of differences. This ensures that no relevant bias will remain unaddressed (in which case it could continue to undermine our efforts) and that not one form of bias will be overemphasised (which usually means overestimated at the same time). Our approach has led to the integration of more than fifty scientific studies from seven decades that describe six basic forms of biases in three categories.

3 Categories 6 Forms of biases – 50+ studies from 7 decades

The model, which has just been scientifically validated, consolidates studies from different disciplines into a holistic understanding of unconscious biases. It describes a number of dynamics that create negative or unwanted implications in the business and / or the workplace. It differentiates between the individual, interpersonal and organisational levels using two subtypes each. The model encourages to understand the scope of each form of bias separately and to deep dive into the ‘helpful’ and hindering impacts it may create. As a unique feature, it illustrates how many of the biases are inter-related and sometimes stabilise or reproduce each other. This additionally supports a holistic approach to mitigate the unwanted effects of each of the biases as they hinder the generation of D&I benefits or progress.

Applicability – Operational Focus – Consequences

Mitigating Unconscious Biases is a tricky task. For many biases are deeply rooted in our values, minds and even brains. Moreover, our environment reinforces these patterns of thinking. Over the years, science has developed three main mitigation strategies which correspond to the three categories of our model: De-biasing (mainly individual biases), nudging (mainly behavioural and inter-personal) and enhanced environments (mainly organisational biases).

Some of our most effective mitigation approaches emerge from the six forms of bias on the one side and are tied to a company’s leadership framework on the other. In order to strengthen the linkage with everyday leadership behaviour, a new model that covers 7 areas of leadership responsibilities, facilitates a new type of learning process which is specifically geared at the needs of people leaders.

A powerful agenda facilitating the Propelling Performance Principle

Altogether, our unique, holistic, evidence-based and practical approach to Unconscious Biases proves to be exceptionally powerful:

  • It covers all of the biases that act as barriers in the value-creation of D&I
  • It allows to consider the scope and unwanted effects of each bias separately
  • It enables an organisation to design multi-layered responses, connected to existing frameworks
  • It encourages leaders to (re)consider various of their responsibilities from a D&I perspective

As a result, the portfolio ensures that companies can systematically make the most of differences:ENGINEERING D&I.

Further Reading

Digital biases are prevalent

Research-based reflexion on Unconscious Biases

Addressing biases beyond optical illusions to create practical behavioural change