Research shows that unconscious bias limits effective decision-making and is a barrier to cultivating a diverse, inclusive culture — which is critical for optimal team performance. In our first workshop with Paradigm, we learned about what unconscious bias is and why we have it, how it comes into play at work, and importantly, strategies to manage it. We want to share some of our key takeaways:

  1. What is unconscious bias? The brain’s tendency to take mental shortcuts, relying on observed patterns (including cultural stereotypes) to quickly and subconsciously process information.
  2. Diversity matters most for companies who want to be innovative. When companies want to be innovative, diversifying their teams makes a huge positive impact; if the company doesn’t care about innovation, the positive effects of diversity are not nearly as pronounced statistically. Why? Diverse teams perform better, make better decisions, and are better at complex problem solving. An interesting aside: YouTube noticed about 10% of mobile videos were uploading upside down. When they dug a little deeper, they discovered why: left-handed people and right-handed people hold their phones differently to record mobile videos. No one on that YouTube engineering team was left-handed, so no one thought about that until it was a problem.
  3. When your team is more diverse, you’re less likely to assume that people on your team will agree with your ideas or perspective; accordingly, when your team is more diverse, you’re likely to come to the table better prepared.
  4. We can manage our bias when evaluating new talent by clearly determining criteria for success, increasing structure in our evaluations, looking for inconsistencies in evaluations, and avoiding fixed-mindset thinking and language.
  5. We can manage bias when supporting others by being mindful of who we support (are they people from different backgrounds?), aligning our feedback with clear expectations, and reviewing our feedback for patterns of bias.
  6. We can build a strong pipeline by collecting data on incoming founders, making your events inclusive, actively diversify your network, encourage diverse referrals.
  7. The question is not whether we’re biased, it is — how do our biases affect our work, and what can we do about it?
  8. Unconscious bias is prone to error — in addition to impeding diversity, it limits objective decision-making.
  9. Awareness is not enough. The next step is developing strategies for managing bias.

Thank you to our friends at HubSpot, Underscore VC, and Flybridge Capital Partners for attending our first training!

Is your firm interested in joining for one of our next trainings? Let us know by emailing mary@newenglandvc.org.

Written by

New England Venture Capital Association (NEVCA) members support entrepreneurs winning. Great VCs depend on great entrepreneurs.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store