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.”

Universal Platform For The Edge

When there is a message for me on LinkedIn, it’s almost always a recruiter or SEO marketer trying to sell me something. So, there was a pleasant surprise the other day when it was a marketing person for a software company with a new take on the Edge, datacenters, and software. That company is NodeWeaver.

Here is a statement of the problem. Most of the software in the world runs outside of clouds or datacenters—it runs at the edge. But the edge is made of small systems deployed in tens of thousands of locations, in stores, inside industrial systems, on top of telecom towers. Places that may have limited connectivity, or be difficult to reach, all sharing the fact that they run critical systems, and if something stops, your users are not getting services, or production lines grind to a halt. What happens if something fails?

Existing solutions require manual interventions by skilled technicians to resolve problems. They are complex and difficult to manage. They are difficult to scale to thousands of locations. What is needed has the flexibility of the cloud, but the ability to run everywhere, even on the smallest devices, and run without requiring user intervention. 

That’s the idea behind NodeWeaver—a platform that runs any application and manages the distribution, control, and operation thanks to its intelligent autonomous system. Each system learns from what happens on all the others. It becomes smarter the more it expands and able to do more on its own.

NodeWeaver is a software defined operating platform that installs on the bare metal of nearly any x86 hardware and enables the deployment of highly resilient, agile and scalable compute clusters capable of running multiple virtual machines and container-based workloads, optimized for running workloads at the edge fully autonomously, integrating self-management, self-optimizing, self-healing features that dramatically reduces cost of ownership.

NodeWeaver nano clouds consist of 1 to 25 x86 compatible servers of any manufacturer/configuration, from very small to quite large. Connecting a new server to the nano cloud layer 2 switch automatically adds the server components to the virtual resource pool and relevels all applications across the updated server pool. 

NodeWeaver delivers full datacenter infrastructure/functionality, optimized for running workloads at the edge, taking less than 1.3GB of RAM to provide all services, leaving the maximum amount of system resources available for actual workloads. NodeWeaver integrates orchestration, software-defined storage, software-defined networking, multiple hypervisors all managed by the intelligent autonomous system. 

Customers who need to manage a large fleet of deployments already have their own monitoring framework in place. NodeWeaver has a full API that allows them to monitor (and manage) their edge systems using their existing monitoring framework. Tools like Ansible, Puppet, Chef, Terraform, and OneFlow Services are for operating system and application automation and management. NodeWeaver fully supports those as well, via a combination of pre-built Marketplace VMs (in the case of Terraform) or built-in services (OneFlow), or simply via API and network connection. 

The NodeWeaver marketplace enables users to quickly download complete, pre-configured application stacks [including operating system] and service templates, using any of the software products in the catalog, and deploy them with minimal effort; automatically load balanced across nodes in a highly resilient, agile and scalable compute cluster capable of running multiple virtual machines and container-based workloads.

Industrial control systems used to drive production equipment in factories and plants were installed more than 20 years ago and are now becoming outdated, presenting major business challenges. While this infrastructure has provided a stable platform for control systems for many years, it lacks flexibility, requires costly manual maintenance, and does not easily allow process information to be exported and analyzed. Virtualization overcomes the limitations of legacy control systems infrastructure and provides the foundation for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

Control functions that were previously deployed across the network as dedicated hardware appliances can be virtualized and consolidated onto commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) servers, which not only leverages the most advanced silicon technology but also reduces capital expenditure, lowers operating costs, reduces risk, and improves ability to manage change and implement continuous improvement.

One of the leading providers of solutions for large-scale industrial laundry systems has been a NodeWeaver customer for over 2 years. They control and monitor all processes, provide predictive analytics, as well as automated deployment and management of all systems.

With no IT staff at these locations, system resiliency and the ability to autonomically address failures and maintain uptime is crucial. Additionally, the environments in these locations are characterized by high temperatures and humidity, thus requiring fanless, ruggedized hardware that can withstand these conditions.

NodeWeaver’s software-only approach provided the flexibility to choose the hardware necessary for the application, and its lightweight codebase enables it to run on smaller devices that competing solutions simply can’t support, equating to an unmatched combination of reliability, flexibility, and time to value.

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.

Another Well Done Virtual Conference—Ignition Community Conference

Just to keep my perspective in balance, I attended a national soccer referee instructor virtual training. It was terrible. The presenters were not familiar with the technology and the presentation was incoherent.

Therefore, what a joy to attend another well done industrial technology conference. The Ignition Community Conference sponsored by Inductive Automation was Tuesday Sept. 15, but you can click the link and see the presentations for a while. I attended two other conferences (unfortunately not the Apple one) and therefore ran out of time to watch more today. But, I’ll be back to catch other presentations.

Chief Marketing Officer Don Pearson always has a relevant quote to serve as a theme for the conference. “Let’s stop trying to predict the future; let’s build it!” Stop and ponder.

The Ignition platform has greatly expanded over the years without losing the core ideas founder Steve Hechtman first explained to me in 2003. Built upon IT-friendly technology with a core strategy of unlimited licensing, the result is a robust HMI/SCADA offering that is affordable. [Note: Inductive Automation is a sponsor, but I’ve been a fan since long before that happened.]

They call it a “community conference” because they consider themselves, their customers, and their partners as a community. And when they gather physically (and even virtually), the people all act like a community. I always enjoy the conference feeling.

Hechtman discussed how the executive team met at the very beginning of hearing about the pandemic to begin preparing for remote work. Among other things they bought a lot of laptop computers. As things went along, they discovered that overall everyone was more productive working remotely. This will become a new way of life for most at the company. 

Preparing for business in the Covid environment, they improved the support function and added more people. They improved remote training–and a significant number of customers would prefer to continue remote training although many still wish to return to in-person classes when it’s possible. 

Speakers extolled the stories returning about how people are using the Maker edition unveiled in June. Ignition Perspective is another key new product that serves as a base for the main product Ignition 8.1. 

Key themes included filling out the promise of IoT broached back in 2016, mobility, remote control, large enterprise solutions, and working with AWS and Azure. Inductive has come a long way.

Ignition 8.1 is a release that will be supported five years. Its development them was refining version 8.0 released last year. It’s vision is based on Perspective. They worked to make it the best visualization platform. Perspective makes it easier to create in a variety of platforms–including the new Workstation edition. It’s now not only Web-based, but also has this Workstation edition to enhance speed. They have developed an easier-to-use and improved symbol library. They’ve added first-party Docker support. Plus a Quick Start application to help people new to the platform to get configured and ready to use.

Be sure to visit the ICC website and examine all the use cases and partners.