Decision Making: ‘The Voice’ Style

BBC’s ‘The Voice UK’ is giving Simon Cowell a run for his vast amounts of money in the Saturday night ratings war.


‘The Voice’ is different from other reality entertainment shows. The coaches do not judge the contestants on their looks, personality, charisma or dance moves. As the name suggests, it is all about the vocal talents of the contestants.

The coaches sit with their backs turned to the performers and if they like what they hear they press a button and their chair spins around, so they can see the performer. This signifies they are interested in coaching the singer.


I was wondering how this concept would fare in other walks of life and how it might assist people who often feel discriminated against.


What would happen to the employment rates of disabled people if their interviews were conducted by interviewers with their backs turned and their fingers on the swivel button?


Would older people and people from black and ethnic minority backgrounds fare better? Interestingly, now the blind audition bit on the show is over the coaches have been accused of being ageist in the decisions they have been taking when choosing who to select.


What if this swivel chair approach was rolled out to other situations? What if speed dating was carried out in this way? Would people branded as ‘undatable’ by another current television programme find love, or at least a first date, easier to come by?


Would decision makers, be it bank managers or grant givers, be more inclined to financially back disabled people if their backs were turned until their interest was gained?


Many disabled people I work with would be right up for this. They feel they are often unfairly judged and this would provide an equal playing field.


Hang on a minute….before I get too carried away and place a bulk order for swivel chairs…..there are flaws with this ‘The Voice’ style decision making process. For as many people as it would suit, there are plenty for whom it would not. If you lip read or are without speech you are immediately excluded. If you have a speech impairment this does not help, in fact, you might feel it would put you at a further disadvantage.


Blind people reading this are probably laughing at the novelty of ‘blind audition’ as this is their real life without the swivel chair!


The reality is we do live in a very visual world. Research tells us that by far the greatest ways in which we form first impressions are visual. They are appearance, followed by non-verbal communications. Non-verbal communications include facial expressions, gestures, eye contact and posture.


It is also known that, if there is conflict between the words you say and your body language, your body language will be believed. Here lies another potential flaw in ‘The Voice’ style decision making process.


Whether it is considered a flaw by blind people that they don’t have the visual clues of appearance and body language is subjective. I know many blind people who would not consider this a flaw; some blind people feel that the visual stuff can be distracting and that without this distraction they are naturally non-judgemental.


The other two, far smaller, ways in which we form a first impression are the way we say what we say and the words we use. This includes the rate, pitch, tone and volume we speak at. There are people who find this difficult or impossible and for those people the visual side of things provide a way to speak volumes without the need to speak.


Extending ‘The Voice’ style decision making process to areas outside a TV studio initially sounds appealing. On further thought and practicalities aside, a swivel chair is not the answer for everyone!


Danny, one of the coaches on ‘The Voice UK’ has been quoted as saying he wants to be judged on his music and his voice but also says image is important. I have had many heated debates with disabled people about the importance of image, but I am with Danny on this one. Personally, I want to be judged on my abilities to undertake a role, to deliver a project or to be worthy of spending time with first and foremost. However, I believe image does matter. When you accept this, begrudgingly or otherwise, you can use your image to your advantage. It is a tough world we live in and if I can use my image to show I care about what I do and I am positive in my approach to undertaking it then I will.



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