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    Entries in bias (2)


    A reminder to evaluate the work, not just the person doing the work

    Here's a super interesting story from the art world that I spotted in the New York Times and is titled The Artwork Was Rejected. Then Banksy Put His Name To It.

    The basics of the story, and they seem to be undisputed, are these:

    1. The British Royal Academy puts on an annual Summer Exhibition or Art, and anyone is allowed to submit a piece of art for consideration to be included in the exhibition.

    2. The anonymous, but incredibly famous, artist Banksy submitted a painting, but under a (different) pseudonym - 'Bryan S. Gaakman' - which is an anagram for 'Banksy anagram'.

    3. 'Gaakman's' submission was declined inclusion in the exhibit by the event's judges.

    4. One of the event's judges, contacted Banksy (how one contacts Banksy was not fully explained), to inquire if the famous artist had a submission for the exhibit. This judge did not know that 'Gaakman' was actually Banksy.

    5. Banksy submitted a very slightly altered version of the 'Gaakman' piece to the exhibit - and was accepted for the show. Basically, the same art from 'unknown artist' was declined, but for the famous Banksy it was deemed worthy.

    What can we take away from this little social experiment? Three things at least. 


    1. We always consider 'who' did the work along with the work itself, when assessing art, music, or even the weekly project status report. We judge, at least a little, on what this person has done, or what we think they have done, in the past.

    2. Past 'top' or high performers always get a little bit of a break and the benefit of the doubt. It happens in sports, when close calls usually go in favor of star players, and it happens at work, where the 'best' performers get a little bit more room when they turn in average, or even below average work. They have 'earned' a little more wiggle room that newer, or unproven folks. This isn't always a bad thing, but it can lead to bad decisions sometimes.

    3. What we want, as managers, is good, maybe even great 'work'. But what the organization needs is great 'performers'. Great performers don't always do great work, but over time their contributions and results add up to incredible value for the organization. So in order to ensure that the organization can turn great 'work' into great (and sustainable) long-term performance, every once in a while less than great work, turned in by a great performer, needs to get a pass. Take the long view if you know what I mean.

    That's it for me - have a great day!


    VIDEO: Unconscious Bias at Work

    Save this one for the long weekend maybe, as it is about one hour long, (a 45 minute talk, followed by some Q&A), from Google's Director of People Analytics Brian Welle on the subject of Unconscious Bias in the Workplace.

    Link the video is here, it is also embedded below (Email and RSS subscribers will need to click through)


    From Google's description of the piece, and of unconscious bias more generally:

    There is a growing body of research – led by scientists at Google – surrounding unconscious bias and how we can prevent it from negatively impacting our decision making. The goal is to teach ourselves how unconscious bias can affect our perceptions, decisions, and interactions. It is aimed at raising awareness, sparking conversation, and initiating action. We’re hopeful that this will help us to create workplaces that are not only fun and innovative, but allow each of us, no matter our background, to achieve more than we could anywhere else.

    I definitely recommend the talk from Google's Welle, as it not only lays out a simple to follow 4-part plan for addressing unconscious bias at work, but as in typical Google fashion, his recommended approaches are all backed and supported by research, many of which are cited in the piece, (and in the accompanying notes).

    For me, the part that stood out the most was the research that showed that two identical resumes would be assessed completely differently when the first resume had a 'male' name attached to it, and the second had a 'female' name. Take the names off of the resumes, and suddenly this unconscious bias slips away.

    Anyway, take some time this weekend to check out the talk - if you are in the half of the country where it is about -5 degrees outside you are probably not going anywhere and have plenty of time!

    Have a great weekend!