The Link Between Think and Blink

The Link Between Think and Blink

I attended another engaging ‘thinking group’ meeting this morning on the Central Coast of NSW in Australia. The meeting was organised by James Ellis, and some new ‘thinkers’ joined us at today’s meeting including; a clinical psychologist who also practices in forensic psychology; a training manager with a background in community care; an accountant with an interest in behavioural economics; a quality/safety manager who proudly claimed “I just love learning from different people”; and a PhD doctor who teaches an MBA program.

Throw into the mix three mugs that are doing their best to learn about social psychology and risk and what comes out is some great thinking, from a diverse group of people, all with at least one thing in common, a desire to share, experience and learn as part of a community.

While our Thinking Groups usually run with no set agenda and with minimal formalities, we generally have a theme that is often around a book, a topic or an idea that one of the group is keen to discuss. Thinking Groups are not unlike a book club.

This morning’s theme, was loosely around Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink, which on the website is described as:

“a book about how we think without thinking, about choices that seem to be made in an instant-in the blink of an eye-that actually aren’t as simple as they seem.”

Our Thinking Group meeting provided a great link between think and blink.


I’m Still Not That Into Safety

I’m Still Not That Into Safety

When I first declared that ‘I’m just not that into safety anymore’ over 12 months ago, it was at a time when a number of people who work in risk and safety were expressing their frustration of an industry that had become known as the ‘fun police’ and focused more on monitoring rules than supporting people to discern and deal with risk and uncertainty.

The topic was raised again this week as I was talking with a friend who is looking at formal qualifications to help them progress their career in safety. If you’ve read the above piece, you may understand how I wanted to respond to this, but I stopped and reflected before I did. More on this below.

I continue to observe an industry that seems fixated on fixing, dedicated to finding ‘solutions’ for even the most complex of problems and that is addicted to perfectionism. There seems little room for ‘errors’, and when there are ‘errors’, we must get to the bottom of them, find a root cause and make sure the same ‘error’ can never happen again. This is the language often used in risk and safety.


Investigating our Batting Collapse

Investigating Our Batting Collapse

I’m a cricket fan. I have been all my life and it’s one of the highlights of the year for me when my best mates and I head to a day or two watching the cricket, it’s an annual pilgrimage. You might not be surprised then to learn that as a ‘cricket tragic’ I excitedly sat down to watch the four Ashes Test between Australia and England last night only to be disappointed by the Australian Cricket Team Batting Collapse. All out for 60, the shortest first test innings ever in a game of test cricket, the headlines are endless. If you are working with a ‘pom’ this morning at any workplace in Australia, you probably don’t need to be reminded of the details!

But what do we make of this poor performance? How could a team representing their nation, the elite of the elite, get it so wrong? How could athletes, who dedicate their lives to being the best at their sport, fail so miserably? And worst, how could they all stuff up and make so many errors on the same day?

I was doing some great ‘social thinking’ this morning with my good friend James Ellis. We got together to plan for an upcoming program we are running which focuses on incident (or as we prefer to call it ‘event’) investigation. We got to talking about the cricket and realised that there are many similarities between investigating an incident and the result in the cricket last night. You may think we are a little crazy (and you may be a little right), but let me explain.


How do we Know

How Do We Know?

We cannot know about things we do not have a belief in. It makes no sense to say, “I know the earth is spherical, but I don’t believe it”. Yet it is important to note that believing something does not guarantee that the belief is right.

(Dew and Foreman 2014)

This quote from How Do We Know caused me to reflect about how we understand ‘knowledge’ in risk and safety. I wondered how some people working in our industry may respond to Dew and Foreman’s notion that “beliefs act as a first step” toward ‘knowledge’, and importantly whether our industry is mature enough to contemplate the thought that some part of ‘knowing’ is based on the subjective notion of ‘beliefs’.

I can sense by now that the Safety Crusaders reading this are thinking, “That is just ridiculous, knowledge is simply about competency and assessment, either people know stuff or they don’t, it’s got nothing to do with wishy washy beliefs. That’s just not the way things are done in risk and safety.” They may also be asking; “how can you measure beliefs?” This is probably because they adopt the approach of ‘what you can’t measure you can’t manage’. If you don’t pass the test, you don’t ‘know’, so therefore you just have to keep doing the test until you pass. That’s how we know that you know!

I’m guessing that if you have reached this point in the article that either you have some real interest in learning more about ‘how do we know’, or perhaps you are in such a state of ‘dissonance’ that you feel the need to read more just so you can disagree even further.

So what of this idea that belief may act as a first step toward knowledge?