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Guide: Use structure and criteria

Introduction

Education is step one. Changing behavior and unbiasing decisions is a very difficult step two.

Google is approaching this challenge in a few different ways, one of which relies on structure. Use a structured process to guide decision-making, as it can help reduce the potential impact of unconscious bias. In the workplace, a structured decision-making process could include:

  • Clearly articulated success criteria: Determine the components of what an ideal decision should look like and write down examples, prior to making the decision.
  • A shared understanding of success: Decision-makers should be calibrated on success criteria and use them to guide their decision.
  • An opportunity for discussion: When possible, it’s great to allow decision-makers to discuss their recommendations and rationale, to avoid assumptions and allow for clarity.
  • A predetermined decision scope: Decision-makers should know what’s on the table for discussion to avoid superfluous information from entering the conversation.

For example, in the case of hiring, research shows that in the absence of predetermined criteria unconscious biases can lead to shifting and unfair expectations when assessing potential hires. One study showed that clearly stating expectations and standards ahead of time can reduce the influence of gendered stereotypes on hiring decisions. Applying “structure” to hiring doesn’t need to be hard - write down the minimum qualifications needed to do the job, share them with all the interviewers, and ensure everyone is asking questions to assess those qualifications. Better yet, use structured interviews.

By structuring the processes by which people decisions are made, you can begin to mitigate the potential impact of unconscious bias.

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