Cognitive Bias – How to Recognise It, Deal With It & Change It

Thursday week ago -- 19th of April, for those of you who missed it --, when the sun was splitting the trees, the OHT Irish Hub had their first One HealthTech event of 2018! Maria O'Loughlin, OHT Ireland Founder, reports.

One HealthTech only launched in Ireland in October of last year, starting to build this community is an exciting period for all of us involved. We really want these events to be driven by the members, so we asked them to tell us what they would like the first event to be about, bias came up again and again, so bias and diversity became the theme.

Learning, fun and creating a community of support are some of our aims for One HealthTech. Thursday night was a conversation that opened what bias and diversity mean to different parts of the group and to create an environment where the attendees felt they could ask any questions to our panellists and importantly share their insights on bias and diversity as well.

The event was opened by myself and Michelle, giving a big thanks to all who had turned up on the hottest evening of 2018 so far, and we didn’t even have any ice cream to give them! *Sigh*

We proceeded with Helena O’Dwyer, Director at KPMG, welcoming us to KPMG, who are a supporter of One HealthTech Ireland and were kindly hosting the event. Helena gave us an introduction into the importance of diversity to KPMG, how they are ensuring that its embedded into the organisation's culture and an overview of different initiatives such as maternity supports, female role modelling and LGBTQ initiatives like partnering with BelongTo and involvement with Pride.

Helena also gave us an insight into diversity stats globally; did you know that there are more men named John and David who are CEOs than ALL the women who are CEOs in the world?! This fun fact is being quoted all around Dublin after we heard it. Helena introduced us to Dr Melrona Kirrane, who is an Organisational Psychologist at Dublin City University Business School. Melrona started her presentation with the simple fact that

“Nothing is so difficult as not deceiving oneself”
Ludwig Wittgenstein   [1889–1951]

We were given a whistle-stop tour of how we process information and how bias is something that our unconscious is in charge of. Neuroscience research has shown it's bigger than our conscious part of our brain and it’s the first part of our brain that lights up when asked a question. This was backed up by the startling fact that we are exposed to 11,000,000 pieces of data per second, but we consciously process only 40 of these. It's no wonder we lean towards the familiar or the bias that serves us best.

The “similar to me effect” is a bias that can affect how diverse we are in our environments, the bias of wanting to engage with people who are like ourselves was discussed, and how naturally we fall to relating to the not seeing things as they are but seeing them as we are. Melrona also gave examples of how research has shown that people with white-sounding names need to send out 10 CVs to get a response, whereas people with non-white sounding names must send out 15. That 60% of CEOs are 6ft whereas only 34% are 6ft 2” and people who are 6ft and over earn more than people who are smaller.

Melrona's advice is “STOP GOING WITH YOUR GUT”. Question why you feel certain ways and stop and think, what was your first impression of someone and why? Not easy to do, especially when we have 11,000,000  pieces of data coming at us, but still really good advice and something I have been trying to do ever since. If you want to test some of these theories and want to know how biased you are Melrona suggested taking this test:

Melrona passed the baton over to Dr Karl Thomas, CEO of Creatovation. Karl went straight into the research around our brains and how they cope with different situations. Karl spoke about loss aversion and how we are innately set up to avoid a loss at all costs. There are studies to show the ain of a loss is almost twice as strong as the reward felt from a gain.

And the one that had a lot of giggles and nods from the audience “Impostor Syndrome”, a psychological pattern in which people doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent, often internalized fear of being exposed as a "fraud”. How we live in a culture of celebrating genius, and how we do need to be aware of this trend and how important it is to try to be more real and honest about our achievements. I am not joking when I say my amazing, successful female friends and I have this conversation regularly - suffering from Impostor Syndrome is one that pops up a lot!

Karl’s tip when you feel like this write down 3 things that you know you do well and try and add to this so when impostor syndrome starts to creep over you, reread the things you have written down.

Soooooo dotted throughout Karl’s entire presentation were pictures of Tom Hardy sort of like the “Where's Wally game”, you just kept seeing little images in corners of the presentation. This was for my co-founder Michelle's benefit, she's a big Tom Hardy fan. Karl finished his presentation pointing out that as much as you may love Tom, four Toms

are not going to solve your problems, you need a mix of lots of different people, with different skills, backgrounds, experiences, nationalities, sex, religion and more to solve the problems we are facing.

The panel discussion then started and I am delighted to say it turned into a conversation for all in the room, we had great examples of where we should start to change societies and industries views on bias, examples from the panel on where they had experienced bias from pregnancy bias to bias around having tattoos that had one of our panel stripping at a previous conference! *gasp*

We closed with tips and tricks for how to increase diversity, look at who’s not in the room, invite people in but importantly encourage and allow them to participate, maybe make your own stance for diversity by highlighting when you can see bias forming.

We, at One HealthTech Ireland, want to give a big thanks out to all involved in this event, it was lots of fun, I personally learnt a lot and it was great to meet so many new and interesting people. Now on to planning the next One HealthTech event, which will be in Galway and the following one in Cork any suggestions on topics or anyone who would like to get involved in our community then do get in touch at 🙂


Comments are closed.