The Next Level of Intelligence for 21st Century Leaders

buzz from Susan Lichtenstein, Senior Vice President, Corporate Affairs and Chief Legal Officer Hill-Rom Holdings, Inc.

"Arin Reeves's new book is not just interesting reading, it's essential reading for any leader coping with the information revolution and the rapid pace of 21st century change. Reeves's observations about our interactions -- not just in the workplace, but in society -- are perceptive, enlightening, entertaining, and undeniable. "The Next IQ" is that rare book that combines revelation with practical advice. After reading this book, you will not approach your colleagues or your decisions in the same way."

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From the pages...

An Introduction to Unconscious Biases


The statistical sketches profiled above illustrate how our unconscious biases manifest without our explicit permission or even knowledge.


When I’ve done assessments of workplaces and found very similar workplace and workforce patterns, I have rarely found conscious and deliberate efforts to select or promote or view positively an individual based on something like height or name or accent or body weight.  Even when confronted with the statistical evidence within their organizations of bias along physical differentiators, most leaders quickly try to find specific reasons why individuals within a group may have not succeeded instead of acknowledging the reality of actions that are not conscious or deliberate.


These patterns are not limited to physical attributes. We have done assessments in workplaces where we found unfounded correlations between neatness of work spaces and perceptions of analytical ability (direct correlation) and between the number of personal pictures displayed in offices and perceptions of friendliness (direct  correlation). Our tendencies to see what we know allows us to quickly sort the world around us into preexisting categories, but when we do, we also lose the opportunity to see and learn something different from what we already know.


The Retro IQ sticks to many of our workplaces because we have imbued these places with a false notion of meritocracy. When we are confronted with the possibility of concepts such as unconscious biases, subtle stereotypes, innate prejudices, or unintended discrimination, we defend our meritocracies instead of acknowledging their weaknesses.


I used to say that whenever people heard my Southern accent, they always wanted to deduct 100 IQ points.  Jeff Foxworthy (American Comedian)


Cultivating a global mindset requires the intellectual courage and intellectual openness to seek and include new perspectives and learn new ways to thrive in this changing world. In order to increase our individual and collective NEXT IQs, we have to open up to the possibility that though we may want to embrace new and different perspectives from people who are perceptibly different from us, we often unknowingly work to keep these perspectives out of our workplaces and our comfort zones.


We also have to open up to the possibility that the flip side to unconscious bias is unconscious privilege. Defined as a special advantage, immunity, permission, right, or benefit granted to or enjoyed by an individual, class, or caste,22 there are individuals who benefit from unconscious privilege granted to them just as there are individuals who suffer from unconscious biases working against them.


In understanding privilege as the counterpoint to bias, it is criticalto understand that when an individual or group benefits from one or many privileges, their lack of knowledge of the privilege(s) and/or their lack of affirmative permission to receive the privilege(s) do not negate the benefits that they enjoy. Furthermore, individuals who benefit from privilege cannot “give it back” just as those who are negatively impacted by bias cannot “opt out” of being perceived a particular way.


In our law firm studies, the candidates who benefited from the interviewers’ higher degrees of comfort cannot “give back” that privilege even if they were to discover that other candidates had not been “connected with” in the same way. Taller men cannot “give back” whatever halo effect their height has on those around them. People with traditionally “white” names cannot “give back” the sense of trust and intelligence others feel when they see their name in contrast to the sense of foreignness felt when they see traditionally “African American names.” And, people of average weight cannot “give back” the privilege of not being automatically viewed as lazy simply because their metabolism works differently than someone else’s.


This is what makes the Retro IQ so stubbornly sticky. People who benefit from certain identity privileges often feel that acknowledging the privileges that have advantaged them somehow minimizes the work that they have done and the challenges that they have overcome.


Acknowledging privilege does not negate merit, but not acknowledging privilege does close out the ability to fully become aware of bias.


Without increasing awareness about bias, it is impossible to actively seek, include, and integrate the different perspectives necessary to increase your intelligence in the 21st century, especially as a leader.