Each time I update my know-how on unconscious bias with Wikipedia, it seems like they’ve added more categories and refined the definitions further. I’ve given up trying to remember them all…
…And now the Nobel Peace prize-winner for cognitive biases, Daniel Kahneman, has introduced a new concept, which he calls ‘noise’.
Put simply, ‘noise’ is inconsistency in decision-making.
It’s linked to bias in that more experienced people are more prone to it. They think they’re better at decision-taking, and consistency, than they actually are.
It takes me back to the reason why I’m so passionate about organisational development generally, and leadership development in particular.
My early experiences of corporate life were filled with examples of inconsistent decision-making. It disengages people – and costs an inordinate amount of time as people invest emotionally in trying to understand why a decision has gone the way it has.
Yes, there was sexism, lack of cultural diversity and all the biases that are now better-acknowledged in society generally, and the world of work in particular. I cringe when I glimpse those 1970’s TV revivals, as it brings back so many moments I’d rather forget.
My belief is that a need for consistency is linked to our innate desire for ‘fairness’, which most of humanity seems to share. If we apply a rule consistently we’re perceived as ‘fair’, even when everyone appears to ‘lose’ as a result.
Even peace negotiations have run successfully on this principle.
Kahneman’s book (yes, called ‘Noise’, to be published October 2016) talks about the estimated costs, versus the actual costs, to an organisation of this interference. Leaders assumed that inconsistency was costing around 5-10%, when actually the costs are more like 40-60%.
So I’m delighted that Kahneman, and his team, have done all the heavy lifting in terms of scholarship, research and validity.
I can see the particular relevance of ‘noise’ to talent identification and performance management.
If we can improve the quality of our decisions around identifying, filtering and selecting talent for management and leadership roles, we’ll reduce the costs of staff turnover, improve the leadership culture, and raise employee engagement levels too.
What’s particularly interesting to me is that the solutions are simple. Just identify the practical variables and find a way to apply them systematically. And that’s it.
Don’t wait for outcome data. Don’t apply weight to one practical variable over another.
The implications of this approach are issues such as:
At Forton we support clients to identify the relevant variables to their talent pool selection, and performance management processes. Then we provide the training and skills support to create a culture of fairness.
And we don’t stop there; our 4D model includes the practical support leaders and managers need to apply these skills, consistently.
This delivers more effective and productive teams,and higher employee engagement scores too.
At Forton we change cultures and support leadership development through bite-sized, half-day and week-long events. And if you need to demonstrate return on investment (ROI) evidence, we can show you how.
To experience this for yourself pick up the phone. You’ll find us at +44 (0) 845 077 2980 option 1, or email firstname.lastname@example.org