Executive Development

problem is that this option does not reflect how our mind actually works. In reality, it is impossible to switch off our default filter. The automatic responses informing it are based on neural connections in the brain. Ironically, when we attempt to suppress these pathways, we usually make them stronger. There is a significant body of research on stereotype suppression that validates this. It seems that the willpower exerted in blocking these impulses wears us down, depleting our cognitive resources. This creates a rebound effect and the same stereotypes end up dominating our thoughts. The belief that we have successfully suppressed our stereotypes can be even more dangerous, giving us moral license to discriminate in subtle ways. Thus, we can easily find ourselves unintentionally switching from mindless exclusion to mindless inclusion and back again. In order to break this reactive cycle, mindfulness is required. Recent research by Adam Leuke and Bryan Gibson indicates that just listening to a ten-minute mindfulness exercise reduces bias. Additionally, becoming mindfully aware of one’s unconscious biases and engaging in cultural metacognition – i.e. the ability to reflect on one’s own thinking – have both been associated with bias reduction. As leaders, how can we co-create a future that is more meaningful, more intelligent, and more inspiring than the norms of the past, if we are still reliant on prehistoric impulses to dominate others and stick to our own tribe? The time has come to raise our levels of consciousness and come to terms with our own human nature. Only when we are able to view our automatic responses without judgment can we truly aspire to evolve them further – and to improve the culture and decision-making processes of our organizations.

Developing Leaders Issue 22: 2016 | 35

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