Internal Memo: Ain’t No Party Like a VB&P Implicit Bias Workshop Party

By Patrick Coffee 

You know we always love internal memos. And the latest is a bit of a twist on the standard in that it seems … kind of normal?

Like many agencies (DDB, etc.), Venables Bell & Partners has addressed the industry-wide diversity challenge by diving into the area of study called “implicit bias.”

You have almost certainly heard of this concept—Hillary Clinton even used the phrase during the first presidential debate approximately two million years ago. The idea is less about racism or other types of overt discrimination (which would be explicit bias) than the idea that pretty much every person harbors unconscious stereotypes about other groups of people that ultimately influence his or her behavior, even if this person understands how counterproductive they can be.


It’s human nature to be more comfortable around those most similar to us. But this tendency can lead to some serious problems, as we are all too painfully aware.

Anyway, here’s the recent memo from chairman and co-founder Paul Venables, aka Paolo, explaining why a little bit of training can be good for everyone.

Subject line: Here’s a word I don’t get to use very often


And for all the right and best reasons possible.

You know that VB+P is committed to being an honest and fearless agency that takes diversity head-on. We are challenging ourselves to open our minds to more than our own opinions and beliefs because it is imperative, right now, more than ever.

We need to understand what it means to truly listen to and to connect with everyone that makes up our community inside and outside of these walls.

Our next initiative is to dive into our own implicit biases and we are excited to hold our first Implicit Bias Workshop for the entire agency. And yes, here comes that word, it’s mandatory. Because we truly believe in this.

This workshop will be put on by Paradigm, and they have had success at companies like Google. It will open up awareness and discussion with the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner. All of us have it, and it is an ongoing conversation in our industry. We’ll address what implicit bias means and how it affects our everyday decisions and company culture.

We will hold two sessions. The first one will be next Thursday, 5/18 at 2pm and the second one will be on Thursday 5/25 at 2pm. Both will be two hour sessions.

I ask that all of you not only commit to a session but go with an open mind and questions. This will be a safe space to discuss and challenge previously conceived notions. I fully expect we will do this our way, with absolute sincerity and big hearts.

Please let Talya know whether you will be able to attend a session on 5/18 (2p) or 5/25 (10:30aor 2p). These will be 2 hour sessions.

Thank you for dedicating your time to help us drive our diversity program forward. Thank you for being you, doing what you do, and sharing far too many hours of your life with us.

Let the signing up begin.

Chairman Paolo

Somebody needs to get in on Paradigm’s business, which is huge out in Silicon Valley. As company co-founder and CEO Joelle Emerson put it in a recent Medium Q&A, “While you probably can’t get rid of unconscious bias entirely, you can work to reduce it over time, while putting in place immediate strategies to limit its impact.”

What’s so funny about peace, love and understanding?