Certain critical factors will determine the success — or failure — of your unconscious bias training.

By Neal Goodman, ChiefLearningOfficer.com

Many organizations are rushing into unconscious bias training, also known as implicit or cognitive bias training. This “check the box” approach typically results in poorly planned and delivered learning experiences, which can lead to an unanticipated backlash against the material. If done well, unconscious bias training can be positively transformative; if not done well, the dysfunctional consequences can elicit negative reactions such as guilt, unrealized rising expectations, demoralization or pain. Before undertaking unconscious bias training, leadership must understand the strategic purpose of this initiative and, more specifically, what they hope to achieve.

Unconscious bias training is about critical thinking and decision making. As a result of the training, leaders, managers and individual contributors should be able to make better and more rational decisions. These decisions should focus not only on career-related topics — such as the role of unconscious bias in the selection, development, retention and promotion of underrepresented groups — but also on business practices and processes related to marketing, investment decisions, innovation, patient care/customer relations and all situations where one’s implicit bias may result in poor business decisions. The business case for the training is not just about “fixing people” but about creating or refining processes that ultimately impact profitability.

Most organizations do not recognize how much money they are losing, whether directly or through missed opportunity, due to the unseen forces of unconscious bias at work. For example, consider the following true story: A major venture capitalist, investing millions of dollars on new medical ventures, realized they needed unconscious bias training after they rejected a product designed for (and pitched by) females that was subsequently accepted at another firm, eventually becoming highly profitable. As part of the venture capitalist’s vetting process, they interviewed the CEO and lead scientist of every organization making a pitch for funding. They came to realize that due to the bias of their mostly white male interviewers, they were not doing as much due diligence when those making a pitch were older white males, and thus were investing in projects that did not become profitable. Conversely, they missed out on a major investment because they hesitated to invest in an opportunity when those making the pitch were younger females.

But not all unconscious bias training programs are created equal. Here is a look at what differentiates the good from the not-so-good.

12 Factors for Success

The following factors have proven to enhance the success of unconscious bias programs. READ MORE >>

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