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Collaborative Insight April 2018 - ISSUE 45

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Affinitext logoDiscussion Corner

Unconscious Bias: Commitment or Compliance

In the last year the number of articles and papers that have emerged around the topic of unconscious or subconscious bias seems to have grown exponentially, whether addressing corporate strategy, investment evaluation, business development or leadership challenges. The theme appears to be focusing on decision-making and is one which of late has brought to the fore in terms of thought leadership of collaborative working within the arena of attitudes and behaviours.

It might have been a facet of 'group think' in the 90s where everyone was leaping on the concept of partnering. In those days we did not recognise terms such as 'unconscious bias' - we largely fell into one of two camps: evangelists who could see no wrong and the cynics who saw partnering as either folly or a thinly veiled approach to take advantage through greater transparency. Whatever the position, it has become clear over time and led to the devaluation of the approach was that majority of partnerships were deemed to be failures.

When you analyse why, it was generally that many so-called partnerships never had a substantive business basis so could not deliver, whilst many of those that made sense were not executed effectively. The principles of CRAFT and its migration to an international standard were based on those aspects of organisational processes that would have a significant effect on both business decision-making and behaviours.

One of the challenges for leadership when implementing collaborative approaches is who has a predisposition to work collaboratively, and if not how do we identify the competences and developments necessary to fully exploit the advantages. So while organisations can publish policies that promote collaborative working and implement processes that allow it to be evaluated and operated, success depends on the level of engagement.

If an individual has worked in a traditional and somewhat insular environment for long periods, suddenly changing one's attitude does not always come easily. So whilst the CEO may issue a mandate and the processes incorporate the appropriate triggers it may be that there is a level of compliance but perhaps not the commitment due to historical or even unconscious bias.

It could be that this divergence is what tempers the degree of engagement and seeps through the culture and behaviours of individuals, groups and even organisations. In recent years we have seen examples of non-collaborative behaviours even against a publicly promoted corporate ethos of a collaborative persona.

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