When we started to promote the idea of having anonymity as a “feature” in some of our Thrive Programs there were a variety of reactions, and many were not positive.
In most circumstances in the past, we always knew who was responsible for what was said. The identity of the speaker was a serious weight on what was considered valid and what could be discarded as uninformed.
There is often a good reason to know who provides the information, but as we grew into a modern, knowledge-based society the source of expertise became more diffused, and in newer multi-disciplined teams working towards a goal it wasn’t as clear as it was when a “boss” told people what to do and often could show them how to do it. Managers today are rarely the expert in all of the areas; the most effective managers are communications and facilitation experts.
While there is a problem rooted in the “language” across different fields that can cause confusion, ambiguities, and misperceptions, this discussion is going to focus on the less obvious obstacles: cognitive biases.
Cognitive biases are subconsciously produced “thoughts” that change the way the same information is received differently by people. It includes such factors as Gender, Race, Age, Dress, Accents, and Social Norms.
There are also some personal factors that come into play when asked for an opinion as in the decision-making process. Henderson Effect has been discovered by researchers looking to see what could influence our stated opinions, and it shows that we often think of what answer is the most acceptable or popular as opposed to what we actually feel or think.
Anonymity takes the fear of being a social outcast away and lets us tap more deeply into our true “Self,” as opposed to the “Identity” we work to convey.
The Harvard Implicit Bias test (Project Implicit) is an interesting way to look at your biases in a private setting. In any “test” like this, the amount of “transferability” of the biases into a real-world setting is suspect and variable, but this does provide some insight into how bias can skew your opinion of information.
In the Aspire360 Program, we recommend that the participants remain anonymous until the Issue Selection Phase is over, allowing people to read others’ inputs with no indications of the source.
The research into the value of using these methods shows that there are a couple of positive outcomes from separating the content from the author, the first being a contribution towards the value of diversity that is more likely to be understood than any classroom setting. Secondly is the avoidance of the groupthink you get in sequential conversations, once people hear or see an answer their answer has a high chance of being influenced instead of original thought on the topic. This “pruning” of opinions is something that reduces the advantages of diverse cognition that are a key differentiation in knowledge-driven organizations.
Single-blind review processes in academia are one example of how an area uses anonymity to ensure an unbiased view.
We continue to research and find new ways to encourage the best conversation within the cohort, getting you the most for your time spent. Less bias, more honesty, and better outcomes…in minutes of your time.