Archive for year: 2015

We Need Communities and They Need Us

 As Hugh McKay reminds us in his book, The Art of Belonging;

We rely on communities to support and sustain us, and if those communities are to survive and proposer, we must engage with them and nurture them. That’s the beautiful symmetry of human society; we need communities and they need us.

(McKay, 2014, p.1)

We know that as humans we are social creatures and being part of a community gives us meaning and purpose. Communities are about connecting and being with others and we strive to ‘belong’ as isolation can be the hardest emotion to deal with. When we are in community with others, we give as well as receive and it seems that we need communities and they need us.

I wonder though if at times we use the term ‘community’ too easily? Do we reflect enough to consider what we mean when we talk of ‘community’? I thought of these questions as I shared in community over the past few days.


We’d love to hear your thoughts, experiences and comments.

Author:         Robert Sams

Phone:            0424 037 112



Facebook:      Follow Dolphyn on Facebook

Dolphyn Newsletter #6 – Reflecting on 2015

“Communities of Practice are groups of people who share a concern, a set of problems, or a passion about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting on an ongoing basis”

Etienne Wenger
Cultivating Communities of Practice: A Guide to Managing Knowledge
2015 was an exciting time for everyone involved with Dolphyn. For our ‘Community of Practice’ we completed our post-graduate program in the Social Psychology of Risk. This has been a wonderful ‘learning adventure’ which provides some great insights and understanding of ‘why we do what we do’, along with the importance of understanding how social arrangements are critical in our decisions and judgments about risk.

We were also fortunate to work and share experiences with some wonderful people and organisations throughout the year with many highlights, some of which are outlined below. We thank everyone who has been part of our 2015, and look forward to continuing to connect and learn with you all in 2016.


I Just Don’t Know

I Just Don’t Know

I was talking with a friend recently who works in risk and safety. They shared a story about how a relatively serious incident had occurred at their company and despite a very thorough and detailed examination of the events that lead up to and followed the incident, the reason(s) that it occurred could not be found. It was a complete mystery as to why the things happened the way that they did. My friend said to me “I just don’t know how this come about, it’s got me buggered”.

I remember reading in Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow his theory about how if people don’t know the answer to a question asked of them, one option they can take is provide an answer to a different question on a topic that they do know about. Politicians, through spin, are obvious examples of this, but Kahneman’s point is that this is something that we are all prone to do at times, particularly when there are social pressures in place that make it awkward not to provide no answer.

In your work in risk and safety, have you ever felt the pressure to provide an answer in a tight timeframe? Have you ever provided an answer that was plausible and ‘could be’ right, but you weren’t quite sure, because you didn’t have the time to think things through, if it was?

Have you ever made stuff up just to complete a report on time? Stuff that might have been right, sounded like it was right, and to others could be right, but to be honest, you couldn’t be sure? These may be challenging questions, but we can learn so much by reflecting on them and it can be useful to further examine the social arrangements and context in which we may make such decisions.

It can be a challenge in risk and safety at times to say “I just don’t know”. There are often social, cultural and organizational factors and expectations that ‘answers will be found’. Systematic and linear approaches to incident reviews are often mute on such factors and expectations, the focus is usually “Just Get to the Bottom of it”. When this is the focus, when our incident reviews are solely systematic reviews, do we limit opportunities for learning from the incident? Could it be that the more mechanistic our response, the less we ‘think’ and reflect humanly about what has happened?

So why is this? Why do we find it terribly difficult at times to say “I just don’t know”.

Read the full article that I first published here.

Work-Life Balance – What’s The Message?

Work-Life Balance – What’s the Message?

I first published this post HERE

There is a lot of talk these days in organisations about ‘work-life balance’. You can attend training courses (short online courses are the best I find if you want to make major changes in your life J), participate in coaching programs and even enroll in courses run by universities. There seems to be a myriad of help available if you want to find the right balance in your life between work and life.

But what is the real message when organisations talk of ‘work-life balance’? Is it some magical formula for better time management? Is it better organising things so you spend more time doing the things you enjoy? Is it about ‘choosing’ life rather than work at important times?

Or, is ‘work-life balance’ just another slogan developed with the aim of pretending that the health and wellbeing of people is a care for the organisation? I do wonder when I hear of how some leaders in organisations talk of ‘work-life balance’.

For example, I recently came across this article from the Business Insider Website which is titled 17 Highly Successful Executives Explain How They Balance Work and Life. In particular, I was struck by one of the ‘solutions’ to ‘work-life balance’ offered up in the article by Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, who described one key strategy in achieving ‘work-life balance’ as:

Marissa Mayer took only two weeks’ maternity leave when her son was born. But she didn’t compromise on spending time with her newborn: She had a nursery built next to her office.

Of course not everyone has the opportunity to bring their children to work. For those workers, Mayer offers a simple suggestion: ‘Find your rhythm.’

So, ‘work-life balance’ is really easy, you simply build a nursery in order to take care of the challenges of looking after a newborn child, or if for some strange reason this is out of reach for you, an even simpler suggestion is to ‘find your rhythm’. There you have it, work-life balance’ achieved in a couple of simple steps. I wonder why we complicate things in life sometimes when simple answers are right there in front of us.

I wonder what message this CEO is trying to portray in sharing this story? Is it that if she, as a busy CEO with a newborn child, can get her life ‘balanced’ and in control, so should you? I didn’t hear a story of ‘work-life balance’ when I read this article, instead I heard a story of control, wealth and power. Funny how we can say one thing but really mean another.

Another example of organisations talking ‘work-life balance’ but really meaning something different is within a large organisation in Australia. I was talking with one of their managers this week and they told me how they “continually bang on about work-life balance, but nothing really changes”. When I asked them what this meant, they said there were no changes to the requirement to work six days per week and 12 hours per day and no changes to the mandatory taking of leave when it suited the organisation, just a mantra that everyone must take ‘work-life balance’ seriously. I really have no idea what this organisation means when they talk of ‘work-life balance’, but it doesn’t seem to have much to do with looking after the health and wellbeing of people working in it. Maybe what they really mean is that they need to better ‘balance’ their leave liabilities?

Maybe ‘work-life balance’ for senior leaders in some organisations is just another myth that they want to believe in and perpetuate through their organisation? Maybe one of the sacrifices one needs to ‘make it to the top’, is a life with little ‘balance’ between work and life?

I’m reminded of the story of Brenda Barnes who was the President of Sara Lee Corporation during the time I worked there some years ago. Brenda visited Australia in 2009 for a series of meetings where she shared updates on company performance, talked of plans for the future, recognised achievements by our local team and fielded questions from the staff. I asked Brenda a question about how she goes about achieving ‘work-life balance’. So how did Brenda answer my question?

One might think that she would come out with an amazing array of time management techniques that she employs and talk of discipline and order. How wrong was I to think this is how she would answer. Instead, in a pleasingly honest way Brenda responded by saying something like: “For me, there is no such thing as work-life balance. In times gone by I used to play golf on Saturday’s but that’s now gone. My daughter is taken care of by a Nanny, and I barely fit in exercise between the hectic schedule of work that includes so much travel. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but as the President of a large corporation, work-life balance just doesn’t exist.”

While a little shocked at first, I later reflected on Brenda’s answer and though how refreshing it was to hear honesty and frankness; there was no spin in her answer, just rawness and reality. There was no talk of how amazing she was and making those listening feel less adequate, in fact, the impression she left me with was that it was a hard slog and instead of balance, she actually compromised, and compromised a lot. It was different to the story of the other CEO.

I left Sara Lee soon after this and I was surprised to learn that not too long after meeting Brenda that: “In May 2010, Sara Lee CEO Brenda Barnes was at a Tuesday-night training session at a gym in suburban Chicago. She stepped away from the bench press, dragged her left foot, and collapsed to the floor. She couldn’t get up.” (source –

It seems those compromises had an unfortunate impact on Brenda’s life. Her many years of travel and hard work resulted in a serious illness that she is still dealing with today. Could it be that the stroke made Brenda’s life better, as it has been reported that; “Today Barnes is in some ways healthier than she’s ever been. “I may not be able to move every part of my body, but I feel great,” she says. She is sleeping 10 to 12 hours a night instead of six. Sleep is such a healer.”

When organisations talk of ‘work-life balance’ what is the real message? What is the discourse? Is there action accompanying the message or is it just rhetoric? If organisations cared for better ‘work-life balance’ would they talk more of autonomy support (Deci) and allow people to have more control and choice in what they do?

I wonder whether instead of talking of ‘work-life balance’, our focus should be on what brings meaning to our life, including work? Are organisations interested in this, or is the focus on efficiency? Should we spend more time critically thinking about what our purpose is and what we can do to achieve it? Is life really balanced? Or, is it a constant journey where we have to navigate through ‘messiness’, learning and discovering things as we go?

What does ‘work-life balance’ mean for you?

We’d love to hear your thoughts, experiences and comments.

Author:          Robert Sams

Phone:            0424 037 112


Facebook:      Follow Dolphyn on Facebook


Zero Harm, Santa Claus and Other Such Myths

I first published this post HERE

Zero Harm, Santa Claus and Other Such Myths

It’s beginning to look at lot like….. well you know the song. It’s that time of the year where you can’t take a trip to the shopping centre (mall) without the sounds of carols and other Christmas songs dominating the airwaves. It’s also that time of the year where Children may start to ask questions and challenge ideas and beliefs they have held throughout their formative years.

We recently had ‘that’ conversation with our daughter who has grown to an age where it’s no longer plausible to her that some guy can make enough toys for all the kids in the world and deliver them in one night. The spin of “oh that’s just one of Santa’s Helpers” that we have preached for years when asked about how there can be so many ‘Santa’s’ just no longer washes with a 12 year old who is now more capable of critically thinking and questioning. Of course, she has probably not believed in the myth of Santa Claus for some years now, but playing along with a myth for a while is part of the deal, right?

When kids get to this stage in life, the relationship between child and parent changes. On the one hand it feels special as we become closer because we now share something that was previously a secret. At the same time, it’s a little sad because there is less fantasy and innocence and a sign that she is growing up and asking more questions and exploring things for herself, she is becoming more independent. It can be a challenging time as a parent. I certainly feel less in control and my parenting style must move to one based much more on faith, trust and support if I want my daughter to grow up and learn things for herself. I’m not that into ‘Bonsai Parenting’, just like I’m not that into safety….

But there is another side to the myth of Santa Claus that I think is worthy of further exploration. While the man in the big red suit can stand for joy, happiness, hope and of course gifts for children, there are other messages in the myth of Saint Nick. A message of control, fear and individualism. How many parents use ‘the big fella’ as a way to effectively blackmail kids into behaving with threats such as “if you don’t clean your room (insert any other chore here), then Santa won’t come to you”. Or, that old chestnut “have you been naughty or nice?”. For some, the end goal for being obedient is gifts from Santa Claus, not caring and sharing with others.

Like most things in life, the more critically we think about them, the more we can learn and understand. When we think about some of the social psychological lessons of the semiotic of Santa Claus, he may not just be the nice guy he’s made out to be. There is so much we can learn from the unconscious messages that a ‘father figure’ dressed in a red suit and who demands obedience must do to children. Obedience comes from control and fear.

If we really care about others, whether that is our children or people we work with, we need to resist the temptation to think that we can control their every thought, their every move and prevent them from making mistakes (or experiencing harm). If we truly care for others, like so many in risk and safety profess they do, shouldn’t our focus be on freedom rather than obedience and control?

I thought of this as I watched this video recently from a company that preaches Zero Harm for all of their people. In the video the spokesperson for the organisation claims:

“Over the past five years, all of the 6000 people at Aurizon have come to believe that we can achieve Zero Harm and that we can eliminate all injuries in our workplace”

While I don’t know of this company personally, and nor do I know of the person talking in the video, I can’t help but hear the non-conscious messages blasting out at me as I listen to this statement. The message that is crying out to me is something along the lines of; “if any of the 6000 of you think for a minute that you can have an injury and the associated freedom to live your life as you wish to, you just don’t belong here, so don’t even think about it. No-one has an injury here OK. No-one, not ever!”.

I wonder if this is much different to the threat of; you better clean your room or else…..? Maybe Santa Claus is the perfect metaphor for Zero Harm companies. Have you been naught(y) or nice? Life is black and white in the world of Zero Harm and for Santa. Both can sound romantic and ideal, but of course both are not quite real. Both Zero Harm and Santa are myths.

Zero Harm is not about care and freedom, it is instead about control. There can be no freedom when the goal is perfection and where the aim is to oppress and restrain, not live and to ‘be’. Zero is Zero, not ‘kinda’ or ‘sorta’ zero, it’s an absolute. Absolutes = perfection, no debate, no discussion, just Zero.

But what is wrong with having a goal or aspiration where no one is harmed or injured? For example, the same company also suggests that:

“The focus of course is eliminating all injuries”

While it is easy to jump to the conclusion that this is the perfect aspiration for an organisation to publically profess, like all decisions and judgments we make, it comes with trade-offs and associated by-products. When our goal is for no harm, no risk and where mistakes are tolerated, this also means that there is stifled learning, reduced freedom and suppressed thinking.

I have struggled for a while now about why it is that as humans we find it hard to deal with the idea that harm and pain can only be negative? I suspect from my discussions with many in risk and safety, that I am not alone in this struggle. Harm, injury and pain are not easy concepts to think through. While pain can hurt, whether that is for ourselves, or others, it can also help us learn, and build resilyence and understanding. So how can this be?

On the recommendation of a close friend, I’ve recently been reading a book by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross called On Grief and Grieving. This is a book that can help with an understanding of what it means to suffer and grieve as a human. Kubler-Ross suggests that;

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern.”

I suspect that Kubler-Ross’ book would certainly be a challenge for many who work in risk and safety and especially those who espouse ‘Zero Harm’. If we believe that harm and pain can only be bad, perhaps we have restricted our view too much? Perhaps our hanging onto this belief is no different to a child who knows that Santa can’t be true, but believing and continuing with the myth is easier than facing reality?

I remember when I first came to the wonder whether my favourite toy was chosen by my parents and not Santa, it was difficult to accept. I was in a state of, “hhmm if I speak up, it will upset my parents, but at the same time, it also seems like such a silly idea, but… maybe it is true?”. It can be like that feeling of ‘mental gymnastics’ that we feel when something challenges a belief that we have held for a long time, and we can see a point with it, but it’s a real struggle to let go of what we have believed for so long, and we don’t want to upset those who espouse the myth. Talk about tension…!

Perhaps Zero Harm is the same? Now that we are a little older, more mature and wiser, perhaps it’s time to get on with things and accept it for the myth that it is. Believing in Santa Claus at age 41 just doesn’t make sense to me anymore, ditto with the mythology of ‘Zero Harm’. When we wish for no harm, we also wish for no learning, no risk and no discovery. It is restrictive, controlling and dominating. As Kubler-Ross says;

“Should you shield the canyons from the windstorms you would never see the true beauty of their carvings.”

It can be so easy to be seduced into ‘protecting’ in the name of care, but there are also trade-offs and by-products, some obvious, some not so. Let’s see the ‘true beauty’ in people, not their ability to obey.

Zero Harm is not a model of leadership; it is a model of ignorance, a model of control, a model of obedience and is dehumanising by restricting freedom. Just like Santa being used to blackmail kids to behave, the fear of being injured also conjures obedience and subsequently an obeyience culture.

To live a life with the delusion of no harm is not to be human, it is to be controlled. To behave as a child because of the fear of no presents is perhaps no different. It’s a difficult tension we face in risk and safety, accepting that someone may be harmed while on the way to freedom, doesn’t seem to roll comfortably off the tongue, but we must explore this further. We must challenge ourselves to let go of control and embrace freedom.

Otherwise, we may as well continue to think that Rudolf and his mates ate all of the carrots and milk we left at the front door when we were kids.

And finally…. for all those who are now saying, “so, you don’t believe in zero harm, how many people do you want to injure tomorrow?” I’m just not into binary thinking.

We’d love to hear your thoughts, experiences and comments.

Author:           Robert Sams

Phone:             0424 037 112



Facebook:      Follow Dolphyn on Facebook


We Are Such Experts….

I first published this article HERE

I’ve just arrived home from an annual trip taken with three of my best mates who I’ve known since school. Each year, we attend a day of test cricket, something that we all enjoy and look forward to. Not only is it good to spend time with friends, it’s great to watch a sport that we all enjoy.

A day at the cricket for four mates who have known each other for over 30 years and with many of those either playing or watching cricket together, also sets the scene for us to provide commentary, views and analysis as we watch the game. I suspect if you were a ‘fly on the wall’ listening to our conversations throughout the day, you might be fooled into thinking that we were ‘experts’.

Here are a few quotes that I can remember from our ‘day at the cricket’:

“What was he thinking, that’s such a silly mistake.”

“You’d think he would know better playing at this level”

“I just don’t understand why he would do it like that, it makes no sense to me”

“He should just do what he did last game, he’s been on a real roll over the past year”

“I just knew that was going to happen”

Do any of these comments sound similar to what people working in an industry that you and I know, might say?

When we take on the role of expert, whether in our analysis of sport or in risk and safety, the danger is that we see people as ‘problems to be fixed’, rather than people to be met. We did a lot of fixing in just one day!

When my mates and I get together to watch sport, it’s easy to become ‘expert’. It’s quite amusing actually when I reflect on some of the Blogs that I’ve written over the past couple of years. There is definitely no immunity to the temptation of being an ‘expert’, just because I’ve increased my knowledge!

This of course doesn’t mean that my mates and I are going to stop our ‘armchair’ commentary when we sit down and watch sport together. It’s fun and it’s part of ‘what we do’. Our commentary and ‘expert’ views aren’t likely to influence anyone that really matters.

However, my mates and I are not alone in moving to become ‘expert’. So what are some other examples?

Sports commentators world over are classic examples of being ‘experts’ in others. For instance, in cricket, the Channel Nine Commentary Team has become legendary in Australia. What is obvious to me know is how their comments are filled with hindsight bias, confirmation bias and availability bias.

Listening to their commentary, there is much talk of ‘mistakes’, ‘errors’ and ‘failure’, or at the other end of ‘legends’, ‘greatness’ and ‘heroes’. It seems like every sportsperson must perform perfectly during every game or if they don’t, there are any number of experts prepared to offer answers and solutions.

Sound familiar at all?

I guess we all can be experts from time to time, it’s hard to resist the temptation of providing views on how others can do things better or different.

Can you think of an example of when you have become an expert in someone?

With so much discussion about ‘expert’, I thought it would be useful to examine just what an expert is and what someone needs to do to be considered an ‘expert’.

Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers provides a useful definition with his ‘10,000 Hour Rule’. Simply put, Gladwell proposes that to be considered ‘expert’ in anything, one must have practiced that skill or activity for at least 10,000 hours. While not getting caught up in the specific numbers (i.e. I don’t propose that 10,000 hours should be captured in a log book as we are prone to do in risk and safety), I think Gladwell has probably got this right.

This go me thinking of some questions about being ‘expert’ in risk and safety?

  • I wonder what makes one an expert in risk and safety? What do we spend 10,000 hours doing?
  • If we study in risk and safety, what could that make us ‘expert’ in? Is it law? Is it process? Is it machines and/or engineering?
  • If we do spend so much time being ‘experts’ in ‘objects’, what does this mean for our understanding of people?
  • When we do think that we are an ‘expert’, how much of this is really just about ‘hindsight bias’, ‘confirmation bias’, ‘availability bias’ and ‘representative bias’? We are all bias and that’s ok…

Are you easily tempted into ‘expert’ mode? What are you ‘expert’ (10,000 hours) in? What do you do to deal with the seduction of being an ‘expert’? How do you feel if someone becomes an ‘expert’ in you?

We can all be such experts at times.

We’d love to hear your thoughts, experiences and comments.


Author:           Robert Sams

Phone:             0424 037 112



Facebook:      Follow Dolphyn on Facebook


Not Much Like Safety….

First published HERE

Not Much Like Safety…

A visit to The Wayside Chapel in Sydney’s Kings Cross is a treat. This is a place where people don’t seem too proud to say that, for one reason or another and at a point of time in their life, they may have been, or perhaps still are, ‘by the wayside’.

There is so much about The Wayside that I could write about (e.g. the semiotics, the language used, the way in which community is fostered – all of these things affect how people feel about, and contribute to, ‘The Wayside’), however there was one thing that particularly struck me during a recent visit. It was a sign at the front door as people are welcomed into The Wayside that proudly declares that:

“We’re not much like a church, which is fine if you’re not much like a Christian”

To me this sign sums up nicely what The Wayside is all about.

It seems that while the people at The Wayside aim to practice the Christian values of forgiveness, compassion and understanding, at the same time they also resist the seduction to overly focus on the rule, process and bureaucracy that, in my experience, is usually associated with church. The Wayside feels like a good balance between ‘method and being’ and between ‘tight and loose?

I wonder whether the approach adopted by The Wayside provides those of us working in risk and safety with an inspiration for how we could go about things?

Do we need to do many of the things we currently do in our approach to risk and safety, such as all the processes/systems, our obsession to control, an over focus on efficiency and our fixation on measurement? Or, is a change in paradigm needed in order for us to better deal with risk? Could we learn something from The Wayside?

During a recent visit to The Wayside, I was made feel welcome and part of the community. I didn’t feel the need to be a ‘card carrying member’ in order to participate in the weekly service, I simply needed to ‘be’ with those who attended.

There was no induction process; instead I was ‘welcomed’. There was no hierarchy of where to sit; you just took a seat. There was no dress code; people were free to dress as they please. There were no rules that I needed to recite; just ‘being’. In fact, there was very little formal process at all, it felt good.

What would more ‘welcoming’, ‘freedom’ and ‘being’ mean for risk and safety?

Graham Long is the Pastor and CEO of The Wayside and he has a pretty special way of going about things. He sure does live up to the welcome sign at the front door. The weekly service at The Wayside, in the few times that I have attended, is ‘no ordinary’ service.

What would more ‘no ordinary’ mean for risk and safety?

Sure there are some of the usual things you may expect to experience at a weekly service, but to me, it seems like Graham sees the weekly service in a similar way to how he sees ‘meeting‘, which he so adequately describes in his book Love Over Hate as;

“…when a meeting between two people truly takes place, when there is just you and me and we are interacting in a very real and honest way, dropping agendas and stepping into a wide open space where the air is fresh and competitors become brothers and sisters and threats become people, this is when we come to life.” (Graham Long in Love Over Hate, 2013, p.35)

These are the words of a man who ‘meets’ people who live ‘by the wayside’. People with addictions, people who have experienced suffering and people who would seem like they have lost everything in life. If ever there could be a temptation to move to ‘fixing’, I reckon The Wayside would be the place to do it. But as Graham says “they don’t see people as problems to be fixed”. If they did, that would change their attitude to people, they would be seen as ‘objects’, and as ‘things’. As Graham would say, “people are no-things”.

What would more of a ‘people are no-thing’s approach mean for risk and safety?

Instead, The Wayside is built on the premise of ‘meeting’. Sure there are some formal programs aimed at supporting people to develop everyday life skills and I’m sure there would be processes required for funding and managing the building and physical assets etc…. However, these things don’t stand out when you experience The Wayside, they are not in their language.

Rather, it seems that everything that is done at The Wayside is underpinned by ‘meeting’ where there is no agenda. People are not judged for what they have done or who they are. Confession and fallibility are met with forgiveness and understanding, not blame and punishment.

There is also no requirement to systematise ‘meeting’, the key is being aware of, and “dropping”, agendas. The Wayside doesn’t need to have a documented process for everything they do, ‘meeting’ is not about a ‘process’, it is about relationships.

What would more ‘meeting‘ mean for risk and safety?

The weekly service at The Wayside is like no other ‘chapel’ I have attended. It is not just about the reciting of words and phrases (sound familiar?), this is a place where people are equal and where “Saint Interruptus” (sorry, you just have to be there to understand this) is as important as the Pastor.

In some Churches I’ve attended ‘prayer’ seems to just be about words and phrases being aimlessly repeated and recited, often without much conviction or meaning. At The Wayside however ‘prayer’ is about sharing stories, listening to each other and asking questions. There is little of the usual indoctrination, there is not much reciting and there were no superficial conversations. Instead, things seemed ‘real’.

What would less ‘indoctrination‘ mean for risk and safety?

When you visit The Wayside there no rules for attendance, no screening of participants and everyone can have a say at any time, especially “Saint Interruptus“.

There is some basic ‘organising’ that takes place. The service starts at 11am, there are chairs placed so that people can sit and there is a rough agenda for how things work. However that seems about it.

In a world that seems consumed with control, individualism, objects, ‘privatisation of self‘ (one of Graham’s sayings that I just love), process and efficiency, The Wayside is a great place to reflect and work out how much these things really matter.

I do wonder whether there are things we can take from The Wayside and apply in risk and safety? Are there ways in which we may become more human and understanding in our approach, rather than fall for the temptation to systematise everything that we do?

What would ‘less like safety’, if we were not that into process, control and efficiency, mean for risk and safety?

As usual, we’d love to hear your thoughts, experiences and comments.

 Author:           Robert Sams

Phone:              0424 037 112



Facebook:        Follow Dolphyn on Facebook


I’m 100% Certain About That…..

I’m 100% Certain About That….

I’ve just arrived home after being away for work all week. For almost all of the two hour drive home, I was tracking parallel to storm clouds all around me, and on the radio, the broadcast was regularly interrupted with ‘weather alerts’ warning of severe storms in my area.

When I arrived home I checked out the weather radar application on my phone and sure enough it seems that storms are tracking my way. I then checked my weather forecasting application, and not surprisingly, it is predicting storms over the next few hours. Not only is it predicting storms to happen, it is suggesting that there is 100% chance of them occurring (check out the photo with this story).

This got me thinking about what 100% ‘chance’ actually means? Do this mean that rain will definitely fall in all of areas in which I live during all of the times that it is predicted?

I wonder whether we really understand the numbers that we use so regularly in prediction, particularly in risk? Could it be that everyone may not understand these numbers in the same way? If we don’t all have the same understanding of the references that we use when communicating about risk, what does this mean when we agree on a risk score? What impact may this have on how we deal with, and understand risk?

This reminded me of a story shared by Gerd Gigerenzer in his book Risk Savvy:

“The probability that it will rain on Saturday is 50 percent. The chance that it will rain on Sunday is also 50 percent. Therefore, the probability that it will rain on the weekend is 100 percent.” (Gigerenzer, 2014, p.4)

Gigerenzer then goes on to note about this story:

“Most of us will smile at this. But do you know what it means when the weather report announces a 30 percent chance of rain tomorrow? 30 percent of what? I live in Berlin. Most Berliners believe that it will rain tomorrow 30 percent of the time, that is for seven to eight hours. Others think that it will rain in 30 percent of the region; that is most likely not where they live. Most New Yorkers think both are nonsense. They believe that it will rain on 30 percent of the days for which this announcement is made; that is, there will most likely be no rain at all tomorrow” (Gigerenzer, 2014, p.4)

I remember when I first read this story that it resonated with me. I considered how relevant this is in risk and safety. We use numbers and percentages all the time to evaluate, assess, analyse and to attempt to understand risk all the time. But do we have a common understanding of what these numbers and percentages mean? Gigerenzer further notes that:

“Left on their own, people intuitively fill in a reference class that makes sense to them, such as how many hours, where, or how heavily it rains. More imaginative minds will come up with others” (Gigerenzer, 2014, p.4)

I wonder how this may play out in risk and safety?

I refer finally to Gigerenzer when he sums this up nicely when referring to the latest weather forecasting technology, by suggesting:

“But greater precision has not lead to greater understanding of what the message really is. The confusion over probability of rain has persisted in fact since the very first time there were broadcast to the public in 1965 in the US. The confusion is not just limited to rain, but occurs whenever a probability is attached to a single event.” (Gigerenzer, 2014, p.4)

Gigerenzer’s advice to readers is “Always ask for the reference class. Percent of what?”

I wonder whether Gigerenzer can help all of us in risk and safety to become more risk savvy. The question is, are we prepared to explore these questions or are we stuck in blissful ignorance believing that everyone is thinking in the same way about risk? Do we need better and more meaningful conversations with each other in order to better understand what we mean when talking about risk?

Update; its just hit 5.25pm and it isn’t raining yet. I guess that means that 100% does not mean it will rain during 100% of the time that it was predicted. I wonder what it does mean though?

There’s a chance we might get rain tonight……

We’d love to hear your thoughts, experiences and comments.

Author:        Robert Sams

Phone:            0424 037 112



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Efficiency, Control and Their Affect on Others

For some people, being organised, efficient and in control over others can be like an addiction. It can seem like they just can’t get enough of control efficiency. This is typical in risk and safety and is often enacted in the name of ‘your safety is our priority’. Safety suggests that it is about caring for, and looking after people, yet paradoxically this care, in the form of control, is quite possibly having the opposite effect.

When our life is dominated by efficiency, by a desire to control (both overtly and covertly) and where our focus is on ‘doing’, this can, and will, impact on our relationships with others, even if we are well intended in our actions.

I can resonate with this. I’ve previously shared that I’m naturally a ‘doer’ and I can understand this addiction.


Author:          Robert Sams

Phone:             0424 037 112



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What Safety and Risk Could Learn from Patch Adams

What Safety and Risk Could Learn from Patch Adams

Last night I watched the movie Patch Adams starring the late, and amazingly talented, Robin Williams. The story for those who don’t know it is broadly based around the work and life of the real life medical doctor called Patch Adams. The real Patch is the founder of the Gesundheit Institute, an alternative style healthcare facility that describes itself as:

The Gesundheit Institute is a 501(c)3 non-profit healthcare organization whose mission is to reframe and reclaim the concept of ‘hospital’. We are a model of holistic medical care based on the belief that the health of the individual cannot be separated from the health of the family, the community, the society and the world.

(Source –

While I don’t pretend to know a lot about Gesundheit beyond what I have read today on their website, if they go anywhere near practicing their mission, I suspect that they are making impacts on lives in a much more meaningful way than our traditional reductionist approach to healthcare.

If we subscribe to the theory that wellness, healthcare and medical systems should have as their focus physical and biological health, and subsequently pay little attention to psychological and spiritual health, we are lead to a path that sees patients (I’d prefer to call them people or more preferably by their name) as objects and parts of a system