Unpacking Bias…..!


In the May issue of the Harvard Business Review (HBR) the focus was on “Making Better Decisions; How to outsmart your biases and broaden your thinking”.  While this issue refers to more than just our biases based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and disability, the concepts of bias it addresses are very important.  In one article by John Beshears and Francesca Gino called “Leaders as Decision Architects” they address the two main causes of poor decision making: insufficient motivation and cognitive biases.”  This really struck a chord with me!


In the article listed above the authors address common biases that affect business decision making.


1) Action Oriented Biases – Excessive Optimism (not our issue!!) and Overconfidence (definitely our issue)!


2) Biases related to perceiving and judging alternatives – confirmation bias, anchoring and insufficient bias adjustment groupthink and egocentrism.


All of these are present in the legal profession, probably more so than other professions based on what we do. These are the types of biases that make Diversity and Inclusion work so difficult.  It is not just individual bias that keeps law firm Diversity and Inclusion efforts at bay, it is the collective cultural biases that affect advancement and retention efforts as well.


3) Biases related to the framing of alternatives – loss aversion, sunk-cost fallacy, escalation of commitment, controllability bias.


Often times we are so risk averse it ends up costing us or our clients money.  We believe or try to convey a belief that things are more under control than they are!  Clients get this and honestly, they are looking for advice and counsel in all avenues and not just being the NO person!


 4) Stability Biases – status quo bias and present bias! These two biases are highly prevalent in the work I do! Preferring the status quo in the absence of pressure to change it and valuing immediate  rewards  and underlying long term gains.


So what do we do about this?  First be conscious and then be open to addressing these.  They affect not only Diversity and Inclusion efforts but how you do business as well!

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