3 Cognitive Biases Perpetuating Racism at Work — and How to Overcome Them

Life is a series of paradoxes. We’re living in a time of many people either temporarily or permanently losing their jobs while other companies are struggling to find qualified people to hire.

When we dip into the labor pool, are we limiting our searches through something called Cognitive Bias?

I ran across this article at the World Economic Forum by Adwoa Bagalini, its Engagement, Diversity, and Inclusion Lead. He identifies three cognitive biases and shares some ideas for overcoming. Not to give away a punchline, but most of us should be students of W. Edwards Deming and/or Taiichi Ohno and should have learned about changing the process, not the individual.

From the paper.

We do know is that lasting, positive change is difficult to achieve without deliberate, sustained effort informed by reliable data that is free from bias. And it’s important not to underestimate the role cognitive bias can play in undermining these efforts – and to stay vigilant in spotting and mitigating it.

What is cognitive bias?

Human brains are hardwired to take shortcuts when processing information to make decisions, resulting in “systematic thinking errors”, or unconscious bias. When it comes to influencing our decisions and judgments around people, cognitive or unconscious bias is universally recognized to play a role in unequal outcomes for people of colour.

1. Moral licensing

This is when people derive such confidence from past moral behaviour that they are more likely to engage in immoral or unethical ways later. In a 2010 study, researchers argued that moral self-licensing occurs “because good deeds make people feel secure in their moral self-regard”, and future problematic behaviour does not evoke the same feelings of negative self-judgment that it otherwise would.

Moral licensing may help explain the limitations of corporate unconscious bias training in creating an anti-racist work environment, an effect which has already been observed when it comes to tackling gender inequality.

2. Affinity bias

This is our tendency to get along with others who are like us, and to evaluate them more positively than those who are different. Our personal beliefs, assumptions, preferences, and lack of understanding about people who are not like us may lead to repeatedly favouring ‘similar-to-me’ individuals.

Many hiring managers have a hard time articulating their organization’s specific culture, or explaining what exactly they mean when they say “culture fit”, leading to this being misused to engage employees that managers feel they will personally relate to.

3. Confirmation bias

This is the tendency to seek out, favour, and use information that confirms what you already believe. The other side of this is that people tend to ignore new information that goes against their preconceived notions, leading to poor decision-making.

Many people’s perceptions of others with different identities and with whom they have limited interaction, is strongly influenced by media depictions and longstanding cultural stereotypes.

For example, a 2017 study published in the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that people tended to perceive young Black men as taller, heavier, and more muscular than similarly sized white men, and hence more physically threatening.

How to overcome unconscious bias

1. Change systems, not individuals

The main reason unconscious bias training programmes fail to have the desired effect in creating lasting change, is that they are focused on changing individual behaviours while leaving largely untouched the systems that enabled those behaviours to thrive.

2. Slow down and act deliberately

Bias is most likely to affect decision-making when decisions are made quickly, according to Stanford University psychology professor Jennifer Eberhardt, who studies implicit bias in police departments.

3. Set concrete goals and work towards them

Data is essential to making real progress on diversity goals, and especially important when it comes to mitigating the effects of bias because it provides an objective measure of what has improved – or worsened – over time.

7 Tech Investments Critical To Building ‘Intelligent Factories’

Raghav Saghal, President of Nokia Enterprise, Nokia, wrote a blog post on the World Economic Forum site positing seven critical investments for post-Covid intelligent factories.

The problem began with the Covid-19 outbreak disrupting supply chains and business continuity plans. Other challenges included running essential functions and business continuity plans for normal operations, giving workers safe physical access to sites and coping with a much-reduced workforce, and ensuring the timely support, supply and successful delivery of essential equipment.

We’ve been talking digital transformation and adopting digital technologies. Here Saghal draws some lessons.

Those looking to build resilience into their own manufacturing processes, must invest in capabilities that bring forth the best of IT and OT convergence. To this end, Nokia leveraged the following capabilities:

1. Guaranteeing resilience. Uninterrupted, low-latency connectivity of mobile assets and devices is key to delivering reliable digital communications. This was achieved using our own Digital Automation Cloud, a simple and secure private wireless network platform, and enabler to all other technologies. 

2. Gaining clear, real-time visibility across operations – without having people physically present on-site. We achieved this by recreating in-the-field conditions using exact replicas in lab environments leveraging “digital twins,” helping us test adjacent technologies and anticipate problems before they occurred.

3. Delivering real-time data visibility and visualization. We used automated data tools from our partner ecosystem to manage the huge amounts of data being analyzed every day.

4. Ensuring vital collaboration and decision-making. We used remote collaboration tools including for voice, video and instant messaging to maximize collaboration between and within global teams.

5. Knowing the location of critical assets on the shop floor. Beam telepresence robots on shop floors, steered by staffers at home, allowed for remote views, inspections and surveillance at ‘sending’ and ‘receiving’ factories.

6. Connecting to machines on the shop floor. Standalone surface mount technology (SMT) machines were accessed by experts using telepresence, remote access and collaboration with site-based and home-based workers using remote control application software to enable programming and Nokia’s visual and X-ray inspection.

7. Creating and sharing manual assembly steps. To guarantee quality control, we used virtual reality training to help employees learn assembly steps. 

While the digital transformation journey and business continuity plans for an asset-heavy industry is different than what’s needed for information-based, light-asset industries, planning is still key. In our case, pre-existing technology and workforce investments drove success, empowering and augmenting staff with the leadership, creativity and digital skills needed to successfully execute on existing business continuity plans.

To achieve the digital control and self-orchestration needed to stay buoyant and competitive – both in normal times and post-COVID – network reliability, performance, and predictability must be dramatically elevated across all assets and ecosystems with mission-critical networks and industrial automation solutions. 

Then, and only then, can information and operations technologies converge to deliver enterprise 

Agility is the Key in IIoT

KC Liu, founder and CEO of Advantech, the Taiwan-based electronics company, has always been a sort of philosopher/businessperson. Over the 20 years or so that I’ve followed the company several books have added to my library thanks to him. The company continues to build on its base of Adam I/O modules and industrial computers. But Liu continues to conceive new strategies and technology directions to keep the company fresh and interesting.

On Tuesday, Sept. 22, yes, the first day of autumn, I sat in on a global press conference at 6 am my time followed by a few hours of presentations. And, once again, the companies that provide the infrastructure for virtual conferences and the companies that use them deserve commendation for well-planned and executed events.

Data, cloud, app marketplace, ecosystem, partners, Platform-as-a-Service were key concepts as executives explained where Advantech plays in the IoT market—industrial, smart cities, and more.

“Agile innovation in the area of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) will be the key in driving forward digital transformation in industrial applications into 2021 and beyond,” said Advantech IIoT President, Linda Tsai, to more than 2,000 delegates at the company’s first ever global IIoT Virtual Summit, entitled ‘Connecting Industrial IoT Innovation’.

Ms. Tsai explained: “Figures from IDC suggest that by 2025, there will be 41.6 billion IoT devices in use worldwide, generating 79.4 zettabytes of data. Connected devices will pervade every aspect of our personal and business lives, and a complex mix of technology and infrastructure will be more crucial than ever to harnessing the power of the data generated by these devices. 

“As a leader in embedded computer systems for industrial applications, Advantech is leading the way in developing more powerful edge computing solutions which are compatible with all types of IIoT devices as well as data centers and cloud providers and can aggregate these vast quantities of data, allowing users to optimize operational effectiveness in their facilities.”

Much of Advantech’s pioneering work in this area centers on its strategy of co-creation: collaborating closely with systems integrators and developers to create edge solution-ready platforms (Edge SRP’s) or IApps (Industrial Applications) to make digital transformation as rapid and simple as possible. Advantech can support optimization in areas from iFactory to industrial equipment manufacturing (IEM), industrial AI, smart automation, transportation, energy & environment and iLogistics.

Ms Tsai went on to identify six key technology trends for 2021: digital transformation, 5G, decoupling, device-to-cloud digitalisation, empowered edge and artificial intelligence (AI).

“According to the GSMA Mobile Economy 2019 Report, 5G will contribute more than US$2 trillion to the global economy up to 2035, of which 35 per cent will go to the manufacturing and utilities sectors. Meanwhile, research from MarketsandMarkets estimates the value of AI in the manufacturing at US$17.2 billion by 2025.

“Advantech has developed an extensive portfolio of AI platforms including edge AI systems, sensors and inference servers, as well as deep learning training servers, to assist customers in exploiting the potential of AI. Meanwhile, in the area of device-to-cloud, we are again at the forefront of innovation, with solutions including private cloud solutions, industrial APP, edge intelligence software and cross-platform middleware – all specifically developed to combining optimised computing with robust and reliable performance in even the most demanding environments.”

“There is no getting away from the fact that digital transformation will impact every manufacturer in the world in the years to come, and harnessing the power of data will be critical to competitiveness as we move from Industry 4.0 and towards Industry 5.0. Our global Summit has brought together partners from across the world to find the best ways to collaborate and exploit the power of new and emerging technologies, to optimise efficiency, performance and commercial success.”

Jash Bansidhar, managing director of Advantech Europe, added: ““The macro strategy of driving Industrial IoT development through the adoption of AI, 5G and edge computing is central to the further adoption and exploitation of IoT technologies. Our mission continues to be to work with ecosystem partners to deliver sustainable success in the post-pandemic era.”

GeoTechnology and Manufacturing

I believe that trade has always been “international” in the sense of trading a commodity I have surplus for something I need that someone else has, who could also use my surplus. You can look at the Hebrew Bible for examples. Or documents from China of ancient times. I’ve heard stories of the AnasazisZ¸Z tribe that live for quite some time in the New Mexico/Colorado area.

Often, though, I’ve wondered about trade versus national security. I once had a customer that built tanks for the Army—the M1 Abrams. Always fighting the last war, the Army had them painting all the tanks camouflage. I quoted a robotic system to replace and update that painting line. Then came Desert Storm. The next day they were painting everything “desert sand” and didn’t need the robots. Oh, well.

But I’d think about how our financial geniuses had us moving manufacturing overseas. And I’d wonder, what happens in the next war? If we go to war with the country where our manufacturing moved to, we’d be screwed. What if we built those tanks in another country?

Or look at companies in our industrial technology space like, say, Rockwell Automation who has long ago moved its controller development and manufacturing to Asia. So much of that work is being done in Asia that they moved a Senior VP to Singapore for a while.

Life is full of delicate balances. How to balance the benefits of international trade and national security. We are living through one swing of that pendulum right now. Someday it will swing a different way.

This line of thinking began with an editorial by Gideon Lichfield, editor in chief of MIT Technology Review, who introduced a recent issue of TR:

In the last few decades, the received wisdom among global elites has been that technology tends to make the world flatter, smaller, more open, and more equal. This now seems increasingly false, or at least simplistic. Countries are vying for dominance in technologies that could give them a strategic advantage: communications, energy, AI, surveillance, agricultural tech, cybersecurity, military tech…and now, amidst a global pandemic, medicine and manufacturing. The urge for nations to amass technological prowess and use it as an instrument of geopolitical power is what we mean by technonationalism. The thesis of this issue is that the post-Cold War order was already splintering, and covid-19 is finishing the job.

The biggest driving force in this trend is China’s rise as a tech superpower and the US’s consequent belligerence as its supremacy comes under threat.

We all work in this environment. As we participate in decisions, we have to decide at what point are we an international company (which almost all are) and at what point are we a national company?

It’s complex, but we have to make our way through the complexity to do what’s best for us all.

GeoTechnology Games

I believe that trade has always been “international” in the sense of trading a commodity I have surplus for something I need that someone else has, who could also use my surplus. You can look at the Hebrew Bible for examples. Or documents from China of ancient times. I’ve heard stories of the Anastasi tribe that live for quite some time in the New Mexico/Colorado area.

Often, though, I’ve wondered about trade versus national security. I once had a customer that built tanks for the Army—the M1 Abrams. Always fighting the last war, the Army had them painting all the tanks camouflage. I quoted a robotic system to replace and update that painting line. Then came Desert Storm. The next day they were painting everything “desert sand” and didn’t need the robots. Oh, well.

But I’d think about how our financial geniuses had us moving manufacturing overseas. And I’d wonder, what happens in the next war? If we go to war with the country where our manufacturing moved to, we’d be screwed.

Or look at companies in our industrial technology space like, say, Rockwell Automation who has long ago moved its controller development and manufacturing to Asia. So much of that work is being done in Asia that they moved a Senior VP to Singapore for a while.

Life is full of delicate balances. How to balance the benefits of international trade and national security. We are living through one swing of that pendulum right now. Someday it will swing a different way.

This line of thinking began with an editorial by Gideon Lichfield, editor in chief of MIT Technology Review, who introduced a recent issue of TR:

In the last few decades, the received wisdom among global elites has been that technology tends to make the world flatter, smaller, more open, and more equal. This now seems increasingly false, or at least simplistic. Countries are vying for dominance in technologies that could give them a strategic advantage: communications, energy, AI, surveillance, agricultural tech, cybersecurity, military tech…and now, amidst a global pandemic, medicine and manufacturing. The urge for nations to amass technological prowess and use it as an instrument of geopolitical power is what we mean by technonationalism. The thesis of this issue is that the post-Cold War order was already splintering, and covid-19 is finishing the job.

The biggest driving force in this trend is China’s rise as a tech superpower and the US’s consequent belligerence as its supremacy comes under threat.

We all work in this environment. As we participate in decisions, we have to decide at what point are we an international company (which almost all are) and at what point are we a national company?

It’s complex, but we have to make our way through the complexity to do what’s best for us all.

bp and Microsoft Form Strategic Energy Innovation Partnership

This is one of a steady stream of announcements coming my way about companies joining one or another of the cloud services. That is still big business.

bp and Microsoft Corp. have announced that they have agreed to collaborate as strategic partners to further digital transformation in energy systems and advance the net zero carbon goals of both companies. This includes a co-innovation effort focused on digital solutions, the continued use of Microsoft Azure as a cloud-based solution for bp infrastructure, and bp supplying renewable energy to help Microsoft meet its 2025 renewable energy goals.

“bp is determined to get to net zero and to help the world do the same. No one can do it alone – partnerships with leading companies like Microsoft, with aligned ambitions, is going to be key to achieving this,” said William Lin, bp executive vice president for regions, cities and solutions. “By bringing our complementary skills and experience together, we are not only helping each other achieve our decarbonization ambitions but also creating opportunities to support others on their journey towards reducing carbon emissions.”

“bp shares our vision for a net zero carbon future, and we are committed to working together to drive reductions in carbon emissions and fulfil demand with new renewable energy sources,” said Judson Althoff, executive vice president of Microsoft’s Worldwide Commercial Business. “A strategic partnership such as this enables each organization to bring its unique expertise for industry-leading change and the potential to positively impact billions of lives around the world.”

Earlier this year, bp announced its ambition to become a net zero emissions company by 2050 or sooner, and to help the world reach net zero. By the end of the decade, it aims to have developed around 50 gigawatts of net renewable generating capacity – a 20-fold increase on what it has previously developed, increased annual low carbon investment 10-fold to around $5 billion and cut oil and gas production by 40%. In January 2020, Microsoft announced its goal to be carbon negative by 2030 and remove more carbon from the environment than it has emitted since its founding by 2050. Today’s announcements build on the potential that both companies see in working together to help deliver a net zero carbon future.

Co-innovation

A memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by bp and Microsoft recognizes the capabilities that each company can provide to accelerate progress towards their sustainability goals and help the world decarbonize. Their co-innovation effort will initially be focused on four areas that combine Microsoft’s digital expertise with bp’s deep understanding of energy markets:

Smart and clean cities – identifying synergies between Microsoft’s ‘Smart Cities’ initiative and bp’s ‘Clean Cities’ vision, with a goal of identifying areas for strategic collaboration to help cities achieve their sustainability aims.

Clean energy parks – co-development of innovative, clean energy parks with an ecosystem of low carbon technologies such as carbon capture use and storage (CCUS) to prevent or reduce emissions.

Consumer energy – exploring innovative ways to harness the power of data-driven, personalized, actionable insights to empower energy consumers to manage their home energy use and reduce carbon emissions.

Industrial Internet of Things (IoT) solutions – delivering an ‘intelligent edge’ of capabilities to bp production and operations facilities.

For both bp and Microsoft, low carbon is part of a wider sustainability agenda and they aim to deepen collaboration in this area over time.

Microsoft to bring bp further into the cloud

As part of bp’s cloud-first IT approach, the company has extended its agreement to use Microsoft Azure cloud services as a strategic platform. This expands on bp’s existing relationship with Microsoft, which helped accelerate the digitization of bp infrastructure and operations, while Microsoft 365 enabled greater collaboration and remote working productivity during the COVID-19 response.

Utilizing Microsoft Azure cloud enables bp to access a broad and deep portfolio of cloud services, including machine learning with Azure Digital Twins, data analytics, security and more, to gain greater insights, drive significant optimization opportunities and transform business processes.

bp to supply renewable energy to help power the Microsoft cloud

Microsoft and bp have signed a framework agreement for renewable energy projects that aims to provide renewable energy to help power Microsoft’s datacenters. bp will supply renewable energy to Microsoft across multiple countries and regions including the US, Europe and Latin America. The agreement contributes to Microsoft’s 100% renewable energy goal by 2025.

This partnership reflects the environmental and economic benefits of companies like bp and Microsoft working together to carve out a more sustainable future.

Emerson Invests As Software Eats The Industrial World

Marc Andreessen the famed technologist and investor famously said almost 10 years ago that “software is eating the world.” The industrial market, famously slow to move, has been resembling that remark over the past year. In this episode, Emerson has announced an acquisition and an investment in software. Yes, the valves and DeltaV Emerson. Or, the big guys get bigger.

Emerson announced August 27 that it has agreed to acquire Open Systems International, Inc. (OSI Inc.) for $1.6 billion in an all cash transaction. 

OSI Inc. is a leading operations technology software provider that broadens and complements Emerson’s robust software portfolio and ability to help customers in the global power industry, as well as other end markets, in their quest to transform and digitize operations to more seamlessly incorporate renewable energy sources and improve energy efficiency and reliability.

Digitization is critical for the power industry to modernize and improve the reliability of the electric grid. Incorporating clean and renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, requires balancing the variable nature of renewable energy with the often bi-directional demands of the grid. By combining Emerson’s domain expertise and leading technology in power generation with OSI Inc.’s complementary software and reach within the power transmission and distribution sectors, the acquisition will equip customers with the end-to-end ability to monitor, control and optimize real-time operations across the power enterprise through scalable, software-enabled automation and data management.

“An enormous change is underway as utilities globally are investing to digitize the grid and adapt to rapidly evolving energy sources and new technologies that increase consumer choices,” said Lal Karsanbhai, executive president of Emerson’s Automation Solutions business. “This acquisition will help the power industry maximize the remarkable opportunity to harness renewable energy sources and to accelerate the transformation to the smart power grid. Emerson now has the opportunity to be a leader in this large, rapidly growing market with a compelling and complete software and technology offering.”

Karsanbhai continued, “Our $1 billion standalone software and associated engineering implementation services portfolio is quickly growing to meet customer needs and support operational performance, analytics and digital transformation. OSI Inc. is a great business with a track record of high growth, strong profitability and long-term customer loyalty. This acquisition builds on Emerson’s software footprint and supports customers in providing comprehensive end-to-end solutions to help the power industry continue transforming to meet the needs of tomorrow.” 

OSI Inc. is headquartered in Minneapolis, MN and has approximately 1,000 employees globally.

The acquisition is expected to close in early fiscal 2021, subject to various regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions.

In additional news, Emerson announced it has made an equity investment in inmation Software GmbH, a global software platform developer that further deepens Emerson’s data management and integration capabilities. The investment will increase data visibility and provide unified, actionable information to empower fast decision-making and optimized operations.

inmation aggregates global operational data from across the enterprise into the Plantweb digital ecosystem to create an OT data lake – a centralized storage repository – that serves as the foundation for business intelligence and analytics.

“Emerson and inmation are committed to advancing our customers’ digital transformation initiatives, bringing disparate data together with advanced analytics to provide the comprehensive insights needed to drive business results,” said Stuart Harris, group president for Emerson’s digital transformation business. “Our joint solutions unlock vital information in legacy systems, aggregate data from diverse sources and securely connect to the cloud – enabling plant and enterprise-wide operational improvement.”

The investment will complement Emerson’s effort to build an innovative software platform that provides data aggregation, artificial intelligence, machine learning, augmented reality and workflow management. The platform, coupled with the expertise of the two companies, will further enable customers to realize a measurable return on their digital transformation efforts.

“Emerson’s longtime leadership in digital transformation, global execution and customer service capabilities made them a natural partner,” said Timo Klingenmeier, CEO of inmation. “We see widespread industry benefits as we pair Emerson’s award-winning Plantweb digital ecosystem with inmation’s data management software platform to offer customers end-to-end solutions.”

inmation Software GmbH is based in Cologne, Germany.

The terms of the investment were not disclosed.