2020 was a pivotal year for global human relations, with the cataclysmic effects of the pandemic and the resurgence in the Black Lives Matters protests. Despite the imperative for change, a recent BBC article reported that ministers are now urging civil servants to scrap unconscious bias training.
Riskjobsboard caught up with Inspirational Risk CEO Joachim Adenusi to find out why?
“Everyone has a subconscious and it’s like an internal hard drive”, says Joachim. This drive is a record of every feeling and experience you’ve ever had, and it builds over time, layer upon layer. In response to a situation, person or event this hard drive can hijack the human brain. When this happens, we lose the opportunity to entertain options, our thinking gets clouded and we become guarded.
From this place, we may not make the best decisions. It naturally follows that there is a tragic cost to both the human being in lost potential, but also to the economy in missed commercial opportunities. ‘Governments and organizations have gone to great expense in acknowledging the problem, albeit after years of struggle. Yet acknowledgement does not bring change; it is the starting point.’
Far from being dismayed by the recent publicity about the failings of unconscious bias training and high-profile cases such as the BBCs equal pay claims, Joachim is hugely optimistic, “the spotlight draws attention to where there are systemic problems”. It may always have been widespread, but it can no longer hide in the shadows. It can be measured and reported; whether it’s board representation, career progression, long term effects of mentoring etc. ‘Are we enabling everyone to move forward equally?’ is a question we can now start to answer.
Joachim is quick to praise the huge efforts already undertaken to bring about change and keen to point out that this is not the fault of the people working in the field, many of whom he describes as “talented, exceptional storytellers and masters of delivery.” Yet despite all this very little has changed.
The problem with unconscious bias training is that it is essentially doomed to fail from the outset. “It addresses indirect consequences, not the root cause”, states Joachim.
Its underlying drivers could be broadly categorised as ‘I don’t want to get into trouble’, ‘I want to avoid embarrassment’, ‘we as a company must be seen to be doing the right thing’ etc. It operates from a closed mindset, a paradigm that is code and rules-based. ‘What is predominant is a case of addressing the shame, but not the nakedness - symptomatic treatment of the problem’. This is why nothing changes.
Everything is fine until a situation comes along when a person is not acting consciously. This could be a stressful fight/flight situation or even an everyday occurrence such as speaking to someone. When the cognitive functions are inactive, systemic thinking kicks in, the fundamentals of which have not changed and so the bias remains.
In the summer of 2020 with monumental global events unfolding, Joachim had a flash of inspiration when he realised his career had been building towards the answer. “What better way to solve a systemic problem than through a systemic solution?”. The answer is enterprise risk-based approach.
Risk can solve the issue through governance, bringing in all the elements you would expect from a good risk practitioners toolkit; integrity, accountability, transparency and responsibility. A model of good governance aligned to strategic goals which change the landscape completely.
With a risk-based approach, we can forecast scenarios, introduce key performance indicators (KPIs) and model our collective goals and objectives. It becomes instantly clear what could hinder the goals and where lies the threat. A risk process proactively identifies sources that hinder or help goals.
Now we have transparency and a system of accountability, curbing unhelpful behaviour. It has to be taken seriously at board level and people can feel emboldened to challenge bias and report it. People can feel empowered to be the very best they can be. The old system crumbles, the unconscious bias is severely weakened.
In conjunction with Clemfield Solutions (owners of riskjobsboard) Joachim is offering his ground-breaking ideas, developed into a brand-new training course to tackle the problem, and endorsed by the UK Institute of Risk Management. This is not just a prescribed system but a flexible, fluid model to adapt to any industry, with risk as to the bedrock foundation.
Joachim is hugely passionate about the future of equality. His ambitions go way beyond solving racial issues, to the very optimisation of human capital.
“In a global workforce, we are all different, bringing our unique culture, values and differences together. Some universal themes and stories cut across borders, this is what binds humanity”, affirms Joachim. When we can connect to this, every individual can feel heard and wanted, giving rise to satisfaction, meaning and purpose. From this place of acceptance, creativity and multiplicity of thoughts and ideas that enhance human relationships can flow.
Throughout history, human beings have shown that through collective efforts they can achieve the extraordinary. Realising that it is okay to be different and giving each other the chance to celebrate one another, is the force that can have a profound impact in our world.
Workplace Racial Injustice Risk Management
4th March 2021
Registration: Book here