Yascha Mounk and Jesse Singal discuss the reproducibility crisis in social science and how to differentiate real solutions from illusory quick fixes.
Yascha and Team,
I really enjoyed this podcast. You are having a bigger conversation about social science, but I was tuned into the part about unconscious bias, and diversity training and education. You've had a couple of discussions about this topic, one with Frank Dobbins. I'd like to add my perspective as someone who has been doing this kind of work for almost 30 years with hundreds of U.S. and global organizations, and hundreds of thousands of people. I've also written a well-received book on this topic (The Inclusion Dividend), that is used in many companies and universities. Here's is what I'd like to add to this ongoing dialogue:
1. Diversity training is not a panacea. Training alone doesn't solve anything. Training that is not contextualized likely creates no change, and may leave a lot of open questions thereby causing unintended problems. Any education or leadership development work needs to be clearly linked to an organization's mission, or it is extraneous.
2. Awareness of inclusion-related challenges is but the first step in trying to create more inclusive cultures. You and Mr. Singal referenced and critiqued the Implicit Association Test (IAT) as being unpredicitive of behavior. I agree with that (as do the test's creators) and would never use it to predict behavior of any kind. Nor should it be used to label any individual as sexist, racist, ageist, homophobic, etc. It is likely true though, that most of us have lots of unconscious biases on these topics and more. As you know, trying to understand human behavior and unconscious processes is endlessly challenging. I use the IAT as an awareness tool to understand how unconcious bias can happen, and start a conversation about how biases might be impacting decisions and behavior. In my work awareness is necessary but not sufficient. Is there any doubt that all of us have lots of unconscious bias and those that biases affect our behavior? I have no doubt, given how our brains work. However, the focus in training and development has to be at a very granular level and on how we can control for those biases. That is how the IAT can be used effectively.
3. Companies that are making progress on inclusion have a strategy, and a set of action that are broad, impacting individual behavior, teamwork, customers, policies and practices, etc. Training is but a small part. There also has to be accountability for behavior in order to drive any sort of change.
In the media there is sometimes a focus on the outrageous. Is there some diversity training that is unecessarily provocative, promoting a trainer's personal agenda or belief, and thus ineffective? Yes, of course, but this doesn't represent the vast majority of what is being done in companies. This kind of progress is slow, because it involves trying to shift thought patterns, behaviors, and cultural norms and practices that have built up over centuries. This is also a topic easily open to provocative criticism. There is a lot of understandable resistance to examining ways in which our behavior doesn't align with what we believe about our character. In my work, I always start with an assumption of good intent, and focus the conversation on how we can close the gap between our good intent and the impact on others. Nobody is bias free and we are ultimately all in this together.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment.