Key Point: Sometimes we “taste” exactly what we expect in our heads. There is a great lesson about wine tasting as captured in this intriguing article in Forbes and the potential bologna that is paired with it. A group of wine journalists, each boasting some expertise in wine, some with fancy degrees behind their names and official titles, travelled to Paso Robles, Calif. to participate in wine tasting. At Still Waters Vineyards the proprietor poured two whites (the bottles were covered in brown bags) and asked them to determine the varietals. The following by journalist Katie Kelly Bell describes the event:
”Everyone loves a challenge. We swirled, we sniffed, we wrinkled our brows in contemplation. Some of us nodding with assurance. I took notes, finding the first white to be more floral and elegant than the second. Drawing on my years and years (there have been too many) of tasting, studying and observation, I swiftly concluded that the first wine was an un-oaked Chardonnay and the second was a Sauvignon Blanc, easy peasy. Much to my mortification I was dead wrong, as was everyone else in the room. The proprietor chuckled and informed his room of bright-eyed ambitious wine journalists that the wines were actually the same wine; one was just warmer than the other. He wasn’t intentionally shaming us (not one person got it right); he was pointedly demonstrating the power of just one element in the wine tasting experience: temperature.”
The article goes on document other examples that reinforce the truth of wine: Much of what we taste is in our heads and not in the wine. I wonder if we risk making the same “tasting wine” faux pas when making assessments about people?
Over my years I’ve learned that in talent recognition, selection and performance management, one needs to guard against letting biases dominate our objectivity. Like the wine experts in this article, we can be seduced into believing people are GREAT or NOT because we expect it. As an example we may put a halo around someone based on some characteristic(s) and evaluate what we expect. I wonder what would happen if we could put a metaphorical “brown bag” over people in advance of determining the value they bring to companies.
- Be conscious of what’s in our heads versus what the data/past behavior/results really say when evaluating others.
- Rely on other viewpoints and numerous data points to paint a very complete picture before declaring a decision when assessing people.
- Slow down to apply objective based decision making in assessing the talent and contribution of others. Put a “brown bag” around elements that may make your decision match the expectation in your head. (For example, a degree from a certain school, the shape and size of the person, etc).
Better tasting in the Triangle,