12 ways to fight bias in your team

In this week’s #UXchat we’re looking for ways to fight bias!

Whether it’s within our teams, our organisations and, without being too glib, within ourselves – how can we ensure that our own thoughts and motivations aren’t negatively affecting the way we work, the people we work with and the people we build products and services for?

cognitive bias cheat sheet

Excerpt image from the Cognitive Bias Cheat Sheet.

We’ve previously discussed how to avoid bias in user testing on the blog, and this largely comes down to encouraging qualitative real-world insight from observing user behaviour when deciding on improvements – not confirming our own bias about the way things ‘ought to be done’.

However, how do you spread this user-centred thinking into everything your team does? We took to the UX community on Twitter and asked them their thoughts on the following questions:

  • How can we best identify the biases within our teams, including ourselves?
  • How should we talk about biases to ensure a non-threatening, productive discussion?
  • How do we monitor for regressive thinking and new biases throughout the design process?

Below is a round-up of the best and most helpful responses, which will hopefully arm you in your own fight against bias.

Just in case you’re new to UXChat, here’s a little background to our weekly UX conversation where you can rub virtual shoulders with some of the most knowledgeable ‘UXperts’ on the planet, every Thursday at 4pm.

This week’s conversation was hosted by Karen Bachmann, Senior User Experience Designer for Design for Context. You’ll find many of Karen’s helpful comments throughout the following discussions.

Encourage diversity

Listen to as many different voices from as many different backgrounds as possible. Open yourself up to every viewpoint. Encourage, listen and support. When it comes to building a product, remember that you are not necessarily your user.

Step back from your ego

Understand that having biases is a part of being human. The hard part is ensuring you manage them in a constructive, positive way.

Always be talking

If we strive for a culture where we’re having open and honest conversations, then we’ll always be mindful of everyone’s point-of-view and recognise when our own biases are surfacing.

Self-examination

Do we need to add a specific time in the diary for regular self-reflection? If it doesn’t come naturally, then maybe we do.

Beware of ‘groupthink’

If you’re only making decisions as one whole group (especially one that lacks diversity) then you’re more likely to push through faulty decisions based on group pressure. As Psychologists for Social Responsibility states, “A group is especially vulnerable to groupthink when its members are similar in background.”

Uncover biases as early as possible

Factor in time at the beginning of a project in order to surface any possible biases within your team.

Bring in a moderator

Perhaps an independent party can see your team more clearly for what it truly reflects? Just remember this comes with its own challenges…

Be transparent

Be open in everything you do, it’s an important way to build trust in teams.

Be inclusive

Also be mindful of more vulnerable members of a team. It’s not easy for everyone to ‘speak up’ and voice their opinion, so don’t assume someone doesn’t have input if they’re not part of the conversation. Find a way to talk to them via other channels.

Focus on the data

Data has no bias. However the people reporting the data can be biased, so make sure you’re asking the right questions and make sure everyone has access to the source of the data.

Encourage safe spaces and secure channels

If group discussions are steam-rollered by the loudest voices in the room, perhaps you should hold one-to-one sessions. Or your team may benefit from Slack, where members may be more comfortable in articulating their thoughts and ideas.

Have empathy, always

Everything here can be distilled to this very point – empathy. Always listen to and understand the feelings of other people.

Thanks so much for everyone who took part in #UXchat this week. Please follow us and tune into Twitter every Thursday at 4pm for more insightful UX based discussion.

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Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher is the Content Marketing Manager of WhatUsersDo. He’s also a filmmaker and the editor of wayward pop culture site Methods Unsound. He used to be the deputy editor of Econsultancy and editor of Search Engine Watch.

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