Google has been on a multi-year journey to understand how decisions are made at work, how inclusive organizational cultures are built and sustained, and how individuals can take conscious control of their actions, behaviors, and cultural contributions. This journey has led Google to dive into the world of the unconscious mind.
Unconscious biases are the automatic, mental shortcuts used to process information and make decisions quickly. At any given moment individuals are flooded with millions of bits of information, but can only consciously process about 40. Cognitive filters and heuristics allow the mind to unconsciously prioritize, generalize, and dismiss large volumes of input. These shortcuts can be useful when making decisions with limited information, focus, or time, but can sometimes lead individuals astray and have unintended consequences in the workplace.
Unconscious bias can prevent individuals from making the most objective decisions. They can cause people to overlook great ideas, undermine individual potential, and create a less than ideal work experience for their colleagues. By understanding unconscious bias and overcoming it at critical moments, individuals can make better decisions - from finding the best talent (no matter what the background) to acknowledging a great idea (no matter who it came from) - and build a workforce and workplace that support and encourages diverse perspectives and contributions.
The scientific evidence demonstrating the negative effects of unconscious bias is well-documented, but there’s still a lot to learn about how to mitigate it. Combatting unconscious biases is hard, because their influence on our decisions in a given moment doesn't feel wrong; it feels intuitively right. But in order to create a workplace that supports and encourages diverse perspectives, talents, and ideas, you need to give people the platform and tools to begin unbiasing, Google's term for mitigating unconscious bias and giving your first thoughts a second look. Google is early in the unbiasing journey, but making the unconscious conscious is critical to create a welcoming and inclusive workplace for everyone.