The risk of being biased

3 minute read.
Teams resist change because of biases, our tendency to form opinions based on incomplete or inaccurate information. This article explains the nature of our biases and why we resist new regulations in healthcare safety, but the concepts apply to all of us.


Biases and Risk Management


We’ve been biased since the beginning of human history, having incomplete perspectives that led to inaccurate views, like the parable of five blind men touching part of an elephant and believing they were touching a rope, a rock, etc. based on their limited views.

We easily become biased, even when things are written as laws or regulations. The solution is to acknowledge that we could unknowingly be biased and take steps to reduce sources of biases.

I share this concept in workshops, such as how biases affect people trying to apply Risk Management in companies. For example, the new European Union Medical Device Regulations requires that companies to reduce risk to patients “As Far As Possible,” but this concept is confusing to companies that are biased by previous concepts.

In 2014, European regulators published an article explaining the new concept, writing that they’ve finally explained it in a way that’s “clear, easy to understand, and unambiguous.”

I’ve never seen written polices that are clear and unambiguous. Policies are easily misinterpreted because hen people within a company don’t realize they are biased; they are anchored to established ways of doing things and unable to see improved ideas clearly.
We become attached to what we first learn, which is anchor bias. Like a real anchor, anchor biases slow us from moving forward. We don’t notice anchor bias because we see patterns that confirm and strengthen our existing beliefs, which is confirmation bias.
The risk of being biased is that we unknowingly harm other people. Removing biases within ourselves begins with awareness and must be practiced daily.
Awareness helps individuals but may not help an organization; company policies must continuously improve. In addition to written polices, companies must improve corporate culture to focus on factual data rather than strong personalities.
Biases are contagious, spread by words and policies like a cold is spread by sneezing, creating anchor biases that are falsely confirmed because everyone has the same cold and keeps sneezing on each other and new employees. Consultants may help your organization develop continuous improvement polices, and we can all improve our ability to recognize and prevent biases.
Be aware of bias
The book Thinking Fast and Slow, summarizes 40 years of research on biases. The author, Daniel Kahneman, won the Nobel Prize for research showing how these patterns of biases impact our choices and the economy. 

Daniel Kahneman demonstrated that even research on biases was influenced by biases of the researchers.

Bias impacts global healthcare. As a consultant, I’ve seen biases in leadership of medical device companies and committees for healthcare policies that lacked diversity in gender, race, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Equitable healthcare will increase when biases decrease, and biases will decrease when there’s diversity in leadership. Pop culture is trying to educate society, such as a comedians discussing bias in medicine to diverse audiences. 

Be part of the solution. Become more aware of bias in our daily interactions. Don’t judge yourself or others, and try to laugh together while continuously improving.

Continuously Improve
Active Listening, is a way to listen more effectively and reduce biases by putting all of your effort into understanding the speaker before forming your thoughts. I benefited by listening to a TED talk on listening.

The  Chinese symbol for “to listen” summarizes how to actively listen. It’s comprised of other symbols that collectively tell you how to listen by giving your undivided attention, to understand before trying to be understood, to prevent new anchors and confirmation of existing anchors.
The Kaizen approach to continuous improvement
I recommend the Kaizen approach to continuous improvement, working towards a big goal by taking small, measurable steps that are more likely to be understood and implemented. For work, use the Kaizen approach to continuously improve quality assurance policies to be driven by data rather than instincts that are biased. This is especially important when our products are used by people more diverse than the people designing and marketing products, such as medical devices that must provide healthcare to a diverse planet.
Each day, do more of what is right and less of what is not right
For individuals, make small choices in your daily life. This usually means doing less rather than more. For companies, continuous improvement requires policies that allows data-driven decisions. To lead from within your organization, try to make the process of continuous improvement fun and beneficial for everyone.
Seek assistance
  • Oriel STAT-A-MATRIX is a international management consulting firm (I consulted with Oriel)
  • Qunique is a boutique European quality and regulatory consulting firm (I know the CEO)
  • Jason (me)

I hope for a society working as linked processes of continuous mutual improvement between private companies, public schools, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies. To help create that society, I work with executives and philanthropists to help them lead or invest effectively, and I lead corporate workshops for hands-on learning in international regulations, quality assurance, risk management, & team dynamics. My workshops focus on teamwork, learning-by-doing, and the bigger picture of how our work impacts the lives of other people.


Meditate ten minutes every day to reduce bias in ourselves and be a more effective leader in your organization. Active listening is a form of mediation; concentrating on a speaker and being mindful of our reactions before we speak or act. Over time, meditation helps reduce confirmation bias and prevent new anchors from forming.

Meditation helped me, but I’m biased.

I wish you success and happiness.

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