Leadership Ideas, Information and News

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Diversity seminar provides unique insight at AMC, A/TA Symposium

by Capt. Carolyn Glover
Air Mobility Command Public Affairs

10/30/2015 - 10/30/2015 - Orlando Florida -- Mobility experts attending the 2015 Air Mobility Command and Airlift/Tanker Association Symposium had the opportunity to develop their perspective on the relevance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Howard Ross, a nationally-recognized expert on diversity, leadership, and organizational change, opened the seminar with a thought-provoking statement, "We don't actually think the way we think we think."

And, through a series of short social experiments, scientific explanations, and study summaries, he illustrated the impact of individual bias and how personal experiences impact perspective and decision-making processes.

Ross defined bias as a function of the mind and "a tendency or inclination that results in judgment without question."

Human beings are biased by nature, impacted by a lifetime of experiences, emotions, and interactions.

"(Bias has) nothing to do with quality of character... It has to do with the lens your life experience gives you for seeing the world," he explained.

Bias, in fact, develops from the same part of our mind that enables the quick and decisive decision making military members are trained and encouraged to execute. Despite the influence of bias on perspective and decisions, Ross highlighted the human ability to slow down the thought process to prevent automatic reaction and encourage thoughtful, better decisions.

He provided a series of recommendations that may impact one's ability to effectively encourage thoughtfulness, and thus limit the implications of personal bias.

Ross concluded his presentation by urging the audience to accept the existence of biases, evaluate personal biases, practice 'constructive uncertainty', engage more often with those considered 'others', and give and provide feedback.

"It is possible to change the human system," he stated.

Lt. Gen. Samuel Cox, 18th Air Force commander, closed the seminar by emphasizing diversity as an important mission area. "We have to have an environment that is inclusive of all the ideas and all the talent that we have," he said. Only in a diverse environment, will Airmen come forward with the diverse ideas that our Air Force needs to grow and develop."

One commander in attendance decided to take on this call to action. Brig. Gen. Trent H. Edwards, 37th Training Wing commander, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, intends to bring lessons learned at the seminar to the junior leaders at his wing, whom he says are integral to the success of any organization.

"As leaders, we owe this professional development opportunity we just experienced to our front line supervisors and those at the middle level of the organization. He believes the junior force must develop an understanding of bias, and how to effectively overcome it, so by the time they are in senior leadership positions the principles will become second nature.

"If we develop our future leaders now ... they will become comfortable and familiar with the concepts. It will become second nature," said Edwards.

Eventually, bias awareness will become part of their culture.

Capt. K. Strub, a communications officer attending the symposium, found the lessons learned eye opening. She plans to return to her squadron with open eyes, and an increased willingness to put herself in other people's shoes.

"(Bias) is not something you would naturally recognize. Be aware you have biases, even if you think you don't. You do. It's a natural part of human nature."

The AMC and Airlift/Tanker Association Symposium is the premier Mobility Air Forces professional development forum, offering education on matters with a global impact. The symposium serves as a key professional development forum for MAF Airmen by enable direct access to senior mobility leaders, and fostering an environment encouraging open dialogue and honest discussion

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