Collaborative Learning and the Power of Bias

By Sparta Science

November 29, 2017

Two part comic on Bias
1. Define Bias: a careful review of the facts.... 2. which results in any other viewpoint than my own!

Within any given organization, sports or otherwise, there are usually some key long term relationships between staff members. We like to surround ourselves with people we trust, people that are loyal, and people with similar ideals and beliefs. These relationships can be crucial for building a great culture of cross-disciplinary trust within an organization. In fact, one of the key characteristics all of our software partners share, is this baseline level of transparency and trust present in most mature organizations. There is much to be said about working with like-minded people with great relationships. However it is extremely important that we also surround ourselves with people who challenge us. Colleagues with different backgrounds, skillsets, experiences, and knowledge simply have different biases. This can and should be viewed as a positive, as with the right guidance these biases should lead to learning and growth.

Bias isn’t bad

The word bias has a negative connotation, but when found in a collaborative environment, bias can yield the best outcome. The first step is to understand and admit that everyone has biases, there is simply no way around it. Biases are formed by our knowledge, experiences, and beliefs, and are used to guide our intuition and the decisions we make on a daily basis. Strength coaches and sports medicine professionals will have much different biases based on their schooling and experience in the field. This should be viewed as a good thing! Each discipline and each individual will have something different to bring to the table. We should be pooling this knowledge to collaborate, yet often times when different departments have different thoughts or beliefs, silos are created. Understanding that biases aren’t inherently bad and being able to recognize our own are important steps to creating a transparent and collaborative environment.

Keep the goal the goal

Because there are such vast differences in tactics between sport coaches, sports medicine professionals, sports scientists, and strength and conditioning coaches, we tend to ignore the common ground we all share. All athletes want to perform well, stay healthy, and win... in reality we are all a lot more alike than we think. What is your goal? Find what aligns your organization; everything should be done with this goal in mind. Ideally your organization is built of highly knowledgeable individuals with different skillsets and experiences. By simply defining this goal, we can begin to set the standard of collaboration and learning to find the best path to achieve success.

Conflict is the pursuit of truth

When differing opinions occur some individuals will begin to operate in isolation, as they feel they shouldn’t have to defend everything they do. It is easy to become defensive and recluse in these situations, but the truth is this lack of transparency leads to a lack of accountability. Coaches love to talk about the value in being comfortable being uncomfortable, but in reality many of them simply expect this of their athletes, not of themselves. Honest and direct discussions can be confrontational and uncomfortable, but if everyone in your organization is agreed on what the goal is, they become less about who’s right or wrong, but finding the BEST possible solution to the problem. Ideas, not job titles, should win.

Understand the value of biases, agree on organizational goals, and get comfortable being uncomfortable.

Conflict is simply the pursuit of truth.

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