Beat the Biggest Threat to the Open Organization: Bias


Bias is the single greatest threat to the open organization. This is no exaggeration. In traditional organizations, responsibilities for evaluating ideas, strategies, contributions—even people—typically fall on (presumably) trained managers. In open organizations, that responsibility rests with contributors of all sorts.

“In organizations that are fit for the future,” writes Jim Whitehurst in The Open Organization, “Leaders will be chosen by the led. Contribution will matter more than credentials […] Compensation will be set by peers, not bosses.” According to Whitehurst, an open organization is a meritocracy: “Those people who have earned their peers’ respect over time drive decisions.” But the way humans allocate their respect is itself prone to bias. And imagine what can happen when biased decision-making results in the wrong leaders being chosen, certain contributions being over- or undervalued, or compensation being allocated on something other than merit.

The following checklist covers several documented phenomena that, sometimes unconsciously, skew the decision-making practices.