Tag Archives: unconscious bias

What I learnt from taking part in the #NatterOn Podcast

The way that we learn and consume information is constantly evolving. Dyfrig Williams reflects on what he learnt from taking part in the NatterOn podcast.

A copy of the NatterOn Podcast logo

For the last year or so I’ve been listening to podcasts to broaden my awareness of what’s happening in the world and to get a better understanding of how I can improve my work. The Podcast Addict app has been great in managing interesting podcasts because it brings a range of podcasts together into one feed.

Podcasts that I’ve found particularly helpful are:

I’d add the NatterOn podcast to that list too. It’s a podcast the looks at digital and marketing that’s put together by Helen Reynolds and Ben Proctor, who are two of the most switched on people I know. Helen gets how communications are being changed by social media more than anyone else I’ve ever met. And I’ve learnt so much about data from Ben. I particularly recommend his post on Data Maturity in local government, which has been the basis of my thinking on acquiring data with the Wales Audit Office’s Data and Tech Working Group.

So when they asked me to take part in the podcast, I jumped at the chance because I’d basically get an hour to pick their brains on interesting public service improvement topics.

So what did I learn?

Unsurprisingly, a lot. Helen shared a really interesting post on Unconscious Bias, which brings together many different types of bias into four main problems:

  • We aggressively filter information to avoid information overload.
  • Lack of meaning is confusing, so we fill in the gaps.
  • We need to act fast, so we jump to conclusions.
  • We’re working in complex environments so we focus on the important bits. Decisions inform our mental models of the world.

So what does this mean for public services? For me, it’s about awareness. If we take the time to actively reflect on these problems, then we can be more conscious of our bias as we interact with people and deliver services. We’ve already identified this as an issue at the Wales Audit Office, so we held an internal event to reflect on this. The Storify includes lots of useful resources, including Harvard’s Implicit Associations Test.

We also had a really good conversation about trust, PR and public services after Ben shared a post on the war on truth. Helen looked at the professions topping the Edelman Trust Barometer, which finds that people’s trust in government is generally a reflection of how content Britons are with their lot. This has big implications for how we interact with people from different socio-economic backgrounds.

As a project, we’ve undertaken work ourselves on looking at the importance of staff trust in public services. It’s interesting to take some of the lessons around staff trust and applying it in a wider context of working with communities:

  • Ability – have we shown that we are competent at doing our job?
  • Benevolence – do we have benign motives and a concern for others beyond our own needs?
  • Integrity – are we principled? Are we clearly acting in a fair and honest way?
  • Predictability – are people aware of what we’re likely to do?

After sharing a post on GCHQ’s Digital Approach, I also learnt from Ben that the analogy of frogs in boiling water is a complete lie.

What else did I share?

The Good Practice Exchange is also pondering how we can help public services develop their approaches to the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act. So I shared Chris Bolton’s post on Sustainable Decision Making and Simulation Games as it’s been useful in getting me to think differently about how we as a project might respond to the legislation in order to help services improve.

I’ve also been pondering about how we learn and develop in the workplace. In my ten years or so of working in public services, only three of the training courses I’ve attended have actually had any impact on my work. So how might we tie in our own learning and development with better organisations and improved public services? Carl Haggerty has written a great post on this.

Horses for courses

We have a slide that we use at our events that shows the many different that we share information – through our blog, social media, Randomised Coffee Trials, email and phone calls. We recognise that not everybody wants to receive information in the same form, and not everybody processes it the same way. One of the key principles of our work is that there isn’t a one size fits all approach for better services. Podcasts are another useful way of sharing learning and information, so it’s well worth having a listen to this and other podcasts to see whether they can help you improve your work and what you do.

Webinars: Learning from Harvard and Kanye West

How might we improve our webinars? Dyfrig Williams watched the Harvard Business Review’s webinar on influence at work to see what he could learn.

When we held our first webinar, I’m not quite sure we knew what we’d begun. What started out as a follow up session to our IT seminar has helped us to reach communities of interest that would have been difficult to access with traditional events.

On 12 May, we’ll be running a webinar with IdeasUK on Staff Ideas: Engagement that supports improvement. Despite being UK based, their membership spans across the world, so a webinar is an ideal fit for their needs.

The pre-election embargo has given us time for some self-reflection about our webinars, so we’ve looked at what works well and what doesn’t.

I’ve already blogged on what I’ve learnt from running a webinar, but in the spirit of continuous improvement, I watched Harvard Business Review’s webinar on ‘Influence at Work: What Gets In Your Way and What to Do About It’ to see what I could learn about the topic and what I could take from their approach.

What I learnt about influence at work

Paul Hessey’s Unconscious Bias session at our internal equality event gave me a good starting point in terms of how first impressions can affect how we perceive someone. In this webinar Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson explained why misperceptions are so common. It was interesting to see how little information is available to both speaker and listener in order to form a common opinion about someone. As the table below shows, it’s only the behavior of the speaker and what they say that both have access to.

Available Information / Gwybodaeth sydd ar gaelHaving been a member of the Good Practice team for the best part of two years now, the need to find out ‘what good looks like’ is fairly embedded in me. So what can we do to give a better first impression? Understandably, trust is a key part of this. Here’s how we can better convey warmth and confidence:

  • Maintaining eye contact
  • Smiling when smiled at
  • Nodding to convey listening
  • Actually listening
  • Being affirming when called for

If you’d like to find out more about this and a lot more besides, you can view an on-demand recording of the webcast or read the executive summary of the webinar.

What I learnt about webinars

When it comes to presentations at events, we work to the theory that less is more. There’s nothing worse than presenters reading straight from their Powerpoints for an hour, especially when there’s so much text or data that it’s impossible to read. In no way did Dr. Halvorson overload us with data, but she did have a fair few slides, which kept the webinar visually interesting despite there being no webcam.

Dr. Halvorson also used images and diagrams to illustrate points and clarify meaning. It was particularly interesting to see the pop culture references, with a slide on the Kanye West and Taylor Swift debacle at the MTV Awards to show how people can come across differently to how they intend to.

Kanye West / Taylor SwiftIn terms of our webinar on staff ideas, whilst I can’t promise you an abundance of pop references, I can promise that we’ll be upping our visual game. We have a great line up of panellists from organisations as varied as the Ministry of Defence and the All Wales Continuous Improvement Community, so if you fancy learning a bit more about using ideas schemes to involve staff in organisational development, it’s well worth tuning in.