Conversation Corner

It’s amazing how good conversations can be when you don’t have an agenda. When your goal is simply to get to ‘know’ people you can learn a lot. If you want to really understand what happens in your organisation, Conversation Corner could be the go!

Happy to have a chat about how we went about things.

Measuring does things to people

For a while now the the risk and safety industry has pushed for a move from lag indicators to positive indicators, but does this really make a difference? Here are some thoughts on what measuring does to people and organisations. Love to hear your thoughts.

Gab & Rob Talking Risk – Humble Enquiry

Gab & Rob are often asked to share more about how they go about things when supporting people and organisations to deal with risk. People ask for practical tips and ideas for how they can become better communicators in risk and safety.

In this series of ‘Gab & Rob Talking Risk’, the guys take us through an approach they term ‘Humble Enquiry’ (taken from the book of the same title written by Edgar Shein, which the guys talk about in the video). This is just one of the ways Gab and Rob go about learning whether someone understands the risks associated with the task they are performing.

In risk and safety, there are plenty of tools and methods where we check, assess, audit and inspect for safety, the ‘Humble Enquiry’ is an alternative to these approaches and can be used in tandem. A ‘Humble Enquiry’ is focused on listening to and understanding others. It is not about ‘fixing’ people or feeling the need to solve others problems, just being there for them and helping them to work through things.

One of the keys to effectively discerning risk is to listen for risk iCues™ which is a termed developed by Dr Robert Long from Human Dymensions. Gab & Rob share some of the iCues™ in this video.

The guys would love to hear your thoughts, ideas and experiences too so please share your comments and share the video as you like.

You can learn more about Gab & Rob by checking out their websites:

Gab is the Director of Resilience –

Rob is the Director of Dolphyn –

I’m biased, but that’s ok!

In my latest Blog, I talk about just some of the biases at play when we make decisions and judgments about risk.

There are over 250 biases that can impact on the decisions we make, all of which work in the non-conscious part of our brain which means that we aren’t even aware of them.

I hope you enjoy exploring some of the ways that our biases impact our decisions.

Some Basics on How we Make Decisions

In the second of our ‘Gab & Rob Talk Risk’ video series, Gab and I explore some of the basics of how people make decisions. We talk about rational, a-rational and irrational. When we better understand how people make decisions and judgments, we are better able to support people in discerning risk.

If we do not understand the role that our unconscious plays in decision making, we can easily think that all decisions are either rational or irrational. Understanding a-rational is critical in risk management.

We hope you enjoy and would love to hear your feedback.

Risk & Safety Thinking Groups

In this article I share some ideas and experiences on how you can go about developing or being part of a supportive community. Specifically, I provide thoughts on the ‘Thinking Groups’ we have set up and how they work. If you have any questions about how these work, or would like to join one, please drop us a line.

Some Basics on Social Psychology and Risk

A short article which provides some basics on social psychology and risk.

It’s Knowing ‘Y’ That Matters

Dolphyn recently launched our new brand and website ( This involved a change not only to our name, but also the focus of what we do, which is supporting people and organisations to better understand and deal with risk. We do this by developing and implementing programs where participants learn how people make decisions and judgments about risk.

At Dolphyn, we believe that it’s knowing ‘Y’ that matters.

When we focus our attention and effort on supporting people to better understand ‘why’, they will have a better chance of being able to do what we would like them to do because they may learn about a particular matter or process rather than simply repeating or regurgitating what you have told them.

‘Knowledge’ and ‘knowing Y’ though, are complex subjects. In my experience, particularly in the risk and safety industry, they are often not well understood or considered. There seems to be little time in risk and safety to think about ‘knowledge’ and I hope through this Blog, and Dolphyn’s renewed focus on this topic, that we can slowly work on changing this.

I’ve observed already that ‘knowledge’ is a complex topic, so we can start exploring it by looking at a definition.

Let’s first consider the ‘Wiki’ definition which is; “Knowledge is a familiarity, awareness or understanding of someone or something, such as facts, information, descriptions, or skills, which is acquired through experience or education by perceiving, discovering, or learning” (

This means that knowledge is not just about remembering numbers, quotes and citations (facts), it is not just about intelligence and awareness of ‘stuff” (something), it is also that familiarity, awareness and so importantly an understanding of ‘someone’ (people). Knowledge is as much about understanding people than it is about having an understanding of facts, objects and things.

Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg in understanding knowledge. Through my studies in social psychology, I’m learning so much more about ‘Epistemology’ which is the study and exploration behind the philosophy of ‘knowledge’. This Blog, and my limited knowledge, doesn’t allow for any commentary on epistemology, however, it is something that I am learning to understand better and recognize the importance of.

So what has this to do with how we deal with risk and safety? Why is it important to understand that it’s knowing ‘Y’ that matters?

As I’ve noted above, on the whole I believe that knowledge is something that is not well understood in the risk and safety industry. I regularly see very simplified definitions of what ‘knowledge’ means and how it should be applied in our industry. It is worth pausing for a moment to consider this further.

One example is the recently (2012) introduced concept of ‘Due Diligence’ in Health and Safety law in some States of Australia . The laws state that there are six ways that organisations and key people (‘Officers’) can demonstrate ‘Due Diligence’. One of those is to “Acquire and keep up to date knowledge of WHS”. So let’s explore what this really means?

If we look to the website for the NSW regulator (see – (WorkCover NSW Due Diligence Guide) we see is that they outline these six steps and provide some (minimal) guidance on what each of the six steps means and how people can actually demonstrate them. There are the key steps that WorkCover describe as examples of how to keep up to date with ‘knowledge’ on WHS matters include. Each of the five points are about facts, objects, law and publications. Not one mention of ‘knowing’ people or anything about them!

Safe Work Australia (SWA) in their SWA Interpretative Guide explain that ‘knowledge’ means ‘knowing’ “what the WHS Act requires and the strategies and processes for elimination or minimisation of hazards and risks so far as is reasonably practicable”.

Again, the focus is on law, objects, hazards and nothing about people. Even where SWA do attempt to mention people (SWA Presentation) they do this in the context of people being part of a system.

People are not objects that should be considered part of a system. People think, they feel and they make decisions and judgments. We are all different in so many ways. When we try to fit people into the construct of a system, these factors (thinking, feeling and decisions) are often not considered as we attempt to simplify and control how people behave. Enough of that for now, that’s the topic for another post.

So if ‘knowledge’ of people is just as important of knowledge of objects and laws, what does this mean for people in the risk and safety industry and how can we go about this? Here are a few tips that you may want to consider in improving your ‘knowledge’ of people:

  • Firstly, recognise that having ‘knowledge’ of people is not possible without first having relationship with a person. In order to ‘become familiar’, ‘be aware of’ and ‘understand’ people, we need to have effective conversations. We need to listen to them by asking good open questions, and we need to suspend our own agenda in order to better ‘know’ more about the other person.
  • We also need to be aware of, recognise and understand heuristics and biases and the role that these play in decision making. Without understanding that people have biases, we can be quick to jump to conclusions about them and give us a false sense of ‘knowledge’ about them.
  • We need to know more about ourselves so we can learn about others. One way to do this is to understand Personality Type (see – Dolphyn Services – MBTI) and understanding more about how different ‘types’ of people act and gain their energy in different ways.
  • A final tip is that we need to be aware that people have ‘bounded rationality’ (you can read more about this here – Dolphyn Blog – Flooding) and that ‘flooding’ people with information is one of the greatest causes of incident because they become distracted with so much detail. We need to think about how people ‘sift’ through all of the information that is provided to them and consider how they ‘discern’ what knowledge is valuable and what is not?

These are just a few tips and areas that you might like to explore. The subject of ‘knowledge’ is detailed and complex. My concern is that if we stick with the simplified approaches to ‘knowledge’ that are currently adopted in risk and safety, that we will continue to focus on objects, laws and process and not understand people any better.

So ‘knowing’ is more than just objects, laws and science. It is about people.

At Dolphyn we are intrigued about ‘knowledge’ and we continue our quest to learn more about it. We enjoy helping organisations understand that It’s knowing why that matters, and we hope you enjoy us sharing this story with you.

Author:   Robert Sams
Phone:     0424 037 112

Fiji Kids Annual Fundraiser – 11 October 2014

Fiji Kids – Learning for Life

Dolphyn is proud to be associated with Julie and the team at Fiji Kids.

Saturday 11 October marks the date for the Fiji Kids annual fundraising trivia evening.

All proceeds go toward supporting kids in Fiji who would not otherwise be provided with an education which can change their lives. Details of the fundraiser are included in the flyer below. If you’re free on October 11, why not come along and support kids in Fiji to have a better education.

More information is available at

Fiji Kids - win a week in paradise

I’m just not that into safety anymore

I have spoken with a number of Managers over the past few months who have argued with me that ‘safety’ in our workplaces means that we must do everything we can to control people so that they do not hurt themselves at work. These people have said to me, “we can’t let dangerous things go untouched”; “we can’t let people make choices that may lead to them being injured” and “doing everything that is reasonably practical means that we have to have systems, and people have to follow them”.

These conversations typically end with something like “the law says that we need to provide a safe workplace, I’m not going to jail and risking my house just because someone doesn’t follow a rule. All your fluffy stuff about motivation and decision making sounds fine, but I’ve got to follow the law, so I’ll stick with implementing procedures, thanks anyway.”

If this is what ‘safety’ is all about, I’m just not that into it anymore.

If being ‘safe’ is all about controlling people in our workplaces, we need to be aware of the trade offs for controlling people’s behaviour and actions. We need to be aware that this stifles learning, and is demotivating for people who no longer have control over the decisions they make.

The need to control and fix people also creates relationships that are rigid, yet we want flexibility and mature judgment. The more we seek to control others the less we create ownership, and the more we create co-dependence and as we know co-dependence is a mental health disorder. The truth is that as we become rule focused, we shift away from empathy and become focused on compliance. Those who are attracted to compliance, rigidity and control tend not to be able to create wholesome relationships based on mutual respect and understanding. Instead, controllers ‘command’ others, ‘dictate’ to others and rarely listen. Anyone who treats another as an object will only use and abuse others and will never be respected in a mutual way.

So why is it that ‘safety’ has turned into an industry that is about control, rules, and process and less about people?

When I started in ‘safety’ in 1993, my motivation was pretty clear, I wanted to work in an industry that was all about people. But ‘safety’ seems to have changed over the years. Being in ‘safety’ now is often seen as being the ‘fun police’. So often people in safety are forced into policing and inspection roles, asked to report to management on violations and non-conformances. They are often asked to report on ‘safety numbers’ and trends. Then, when they provide this information, there is usually much debate and discussion about definitions of things like incidents and frequency rates. I know that these things frustrate many of my friends and colleagues in ‘safety’.

So many of the people I know that work in ‘safety’ got into it because they care about people, they are nurturing and kind people, they are engaging and passionate. Yet, the realities of their role mean that they rarely get to work with people and share this passion and kindness. They become known in their organisations as internal regulators, and people take a different view of them. For example, a friend wrote to me recently and shared this story:

When I introduce myself to people they usually ask the standard question; “so what do you do?” When I tell them I’m a Safety Advisor, it’s really not often that I get a positive response. Most of the time people’s faces change, and not in a good way. Their eyes scan me as though I am a different breed of a person. Sometimes they even step back slightly as if I’ve got some sort of highly communicable disease. Often they’ll say something like “oh, you’re one of those people”. Or “and you seriously enjoy that?” Or “that has got to be one of the worst jobs in the world” or “how do you enjoy all of that paperwork?”

Safety Advisor from an International Organisation, 2014

I find this sad and disappointing, but I’m not surprised. It is hard when you are in a traditional ‘safety’ role to get away from the rigour of systems, process and control. It is expected of you, and even when you second-guess the value of this approach, it’s often easier to continue, than to try to break the nexus and change thinking. So how do people in ‘safety’ deal with these frustrations and concerns?

My friend who wrote to me, enjoys our regular catch up’s every few months where we share ideas, experiences and feelings. When they express frustrations and concerns, I don’t feel the urge or need to ‘fix them’, I don’t have to provide solutions. I just listen and ask questions that help them think through options , they need to decide what works best. For me, this is what being a friend is about, I demonstrate that I care without having to solve their problem. So sharing your thoughts with a friend who will listen, rather then solve, can be a great way to work through frustrations and concerns.

Another thing I have found to help is that, along with a number of other friends and colleagues, we’ve formed what we call a ‘Thinking Group’. A small group of us get together every 6-8 weeks and allow ourselves time to ‘think’. During these catch up’s we don’t solve problems, we don’t develop new procedures and we don’t review trends. We just pick a topic or two, and without any specific agenda, we share our thinking. This is a great way to step outside the busyness of everyday life, and away from the constant control and process of our ‘day jobs’, and use our imaginations.

I find that these are two great ways that help with deal with frustrations and concerns.

So if you can ways to work through your frustrations, what might you be able to do differently to change the way that your organisation sees ‘safety’ and limit your frustrations and concerns?

For a start, one of the methods that I have adopted is that I no longer tell people that I work in ‘safety’. I don’t want people to think that I’m interested in controlling people, policing people and reporting violations. I don’t want people to conjure up an image that I like to walk around with a checklist telling people what they are doing wrong. I don’t believe this is how you improve safety.

Instead, I tell people that I enjoy learning about how people make decisions & judgments. My work is to share this learning and help people to discern risk themselves, not for me to do it for them. My work is to coach people and ask questions, not to control them, so that they can realise themselves that they may be in danger. My job is to motivate people by providing good information in a way that helps them learn, not just nod and understand, which is typical of how ‘safety’ training is often done. My job is to value people, their views and opinions. This often involves me helping them to think clearly. Sure there are procedures, risk assessments, investigations, however all this is done thinking first about the people who are going to be involved, not just what the law says.

My jobs is let to people have control of their own decisions.

I wonder, if you are one of those people like my friend, who are frustrated with how ‘safety’ is viewed, whether you might be able to change the way that you go about your job? If you switched controlling to supporting, would people view you differently? I’d love it if the next time my friend goes to a party that people would appreciate what they do and, even thank them, rather then alienate them.

For me though, I’m just not that into safety anymore.