A Small Change and ‘Y’ it Matters?

A Small Change and ‘Y’ it Matters?

Perhaps one of my most important discoveries during the ‘learning adventure’ of the past few years, is of how much I don’t know.

This is despite participating in formal studies, working full-time in the field I studied, sharing in relationships with people, being a Father of a (now) teenager and writing a book, all of which helped me to learn a lot; yet still there is much I do not know. This creates a feeling of excitement as I think about the further learning that (I hope) lies ahead of me.

This is because I find learning both liberating and energising. Especially as I seek to better understand people and how we make decisions and judgments about risk.

However, there are also challenges that arise when we learn and subsequently come to a feeling of ‘knowing’; it can ‘do something to us‘. I used to suggest that; ‘it’s knowing Y that matters‘, however I now ask; is it, and also what is it that ‘knowing’ may do to us?

These are the questions that I explore in this piece.

Throughout my life, but in particular over the past few years, I’ve come to realise that one of the key dilemmas that comes about when we have a feeling of ‘knowing’ something, is that while it helps us in learning, paradoxically it may also hinder it. That is, could a feeling of ‘knowing’ also bring with it the idea that we no longer need to explore, ponder, reflect and seek to understand? Do we then stop asking questions and seeking to learn?

Is it our struggle with this paradox that means that we can so easily be seduced into the methods of ‘knowing’ through reductionism?

After all, it does seem much easier to understand ‘pieces’ or ‘bits’ rather than the ‘whole’, which is more convoluted, challenging, often contradictory and complex. This is why it is important to understand the ‘methodology‘ that drives our desire to ‘know’. So why is this critical for learning and in dealing with risk?

If our worldview is focused simply on ‘knowing’, rather than continually questioning and thinking critically, then we may well struggle to deal with risk. This is especially the case if we fall for the trap that we believe that we know all that there is to know, or more commonly; all we need to know.

If our goal is to better understand people and to deal with risk, isn’t it crucial that we develop more critical thinking, continue to be skeptical of those things that we seem to know, and be free to ask questions?

Risk is about uncertainty, isn’t it? It is not a fixed, binary or always objective topic. It is understood differently by different people. It relies on hope, chance and faith, none of which can always be viewed through an objective or logical lens. We could easily be tempted into thinking that our ‘knowing’ is a fixed idea or state where once we know something, that’s it, we know it, no further action required. However, if we want to ‘know’ more about risk (uncertainty), don’t we need to be continually evaluating, reflecting, learning and questioning.

I wonder if it would be better for me to suggest that ‘it’s asking Y that matters‘?

Having said this, I do understand and accept that we cannot always resist the very seductive and appealing nature of ‘knowing’ through the lens of reductionism. Humans (me included), often have strong desires to want to break things down in order to understand (‘know’). But is this going to help us develop a better understanding of risk?

The irony is not lost on me that I am writing a piece about ‘knowing’ that in many ways suggests that I ‘know’ about ‘knowing’; I find it terribly challenging to escape. Perhaps it is by trying to describe it through words that is the real challenge? Maybe that is a topic for a whole separate piece.

Maybe it would be best to finish by reflecting on the words of Carl Jung who notes in his book The Undiscovered Self (1990):

“If I want to understand an individual human being, I must lay aside all scientific knowledge of the average man and discard all theories in order to adopt a completely new and unprejudiced attitude. I can only approach the tasks of understanding (sic) with a free and open mind, whereas knowledge (sic) of a man, or insight into human character, presupposes all sorts of knowledge about mankind in general.”

Jung (1990, p. 6)

Maybe Jung, through this supposition provides us with further fodder for reflection on the topic of ‘knowing’ and learning?

A Change Was Needed…

Reflecting on this point myself over the past few days while in conversation with a few close friends has had an impact on how I think on the topic. This caused me to be less concerned with ‘knowing’ and instead more interested with questions. It sparked a small, but what I feel is significant, change at Dolphyn.

Primed with the above thoughts, can you pick it?

Share Your Thoughts for a Chance to Win…

If you can spot the change and you would like to offer a comment or thought on it, and/or on the topic of knowing and learning, (either by commenting below, or to me directly at robert@dolphyn.com.au), I’m offering three copies of my book Social Sensemaking to the three thoughts offered that I enjoy the most.

To spark some thoughts, here is some feedback from one of my closest and critical friends:

“One thing I don’t like about these statements is that it emphasises only one part of the learning process (or praxis/critical consciousness as Friere termed it). 

We need to identify the issue and try to understand why its important; this is where asking and critical thinking is important. But without action and reflection (leading back to identification) we haven’t created change and the learning process is incomplete.

I know we can’t make logos perfect (they are just a form of model after all) and this one is way better than most of the shit out there and leads to some great conversations, but that is where my thoughts go when I see it.

I wonder what else we are missing and over or de-emphasising when we are creating these logos, phrases and models? Is it even important to know?

Do you have a thought on ‘knowing’ that you’d like to share?

PS: One final note that I’d like to make about the minor change that I have made. I acknowledge that slogans in themselves are the result of being seduced by reductionism. It seems  breaking down all of my thoughts and ideas on the work I do down to one phrase is a classic example of how easily I can be seduced into it, even after writing an article warning of it! Yet I still did it. I guess I will have to continue to ask myself Y…


Social Sensemaking – Book Launch Dates & Venues Confirmed

Social Sensemaking – Book Launch Dates & Venues Confirmed

Human beings have long been fascinated with the question of ‘why we do what we do?’. For some, the desire to understand this becomes a lifelong quest. For me, it was a fascination with this question that lead me to commence a ‘learning adventure’ to better understand people and risk. It is my reflection of this ‘adventure’ that I share in this book. That is, how we make sense of risk through a means that I’ve coined Social Sensemaking©.

I am now pleased to announce that the dates and venues for the launch of Social Sensemaking have been confirmed and are outlined below. If you would like to attend one of the events, simply click on the RSVP link. We would like to confirm numbers for each event as soon as possible so that we can make arrangements for catering.

Dates and venues are:

  • Brisbane Thursday 10th November – The Brisbane launch will coincide with the three day SEEK (Event Investigation) Program that will be facilitated by Dr Rob Long, who will also launch the book. Those attending this event will also get the chance to meet with my long-time friend and supporter Dave Collins. You can RSVP for the Brisbane Launch HERE
  • Sydney Thursday 17th November – The Sydney launch will be held at the Eden Gardens Nursery at Macquarie Park. Good friends and supporter’s Dr Rob Long and Gab Carlton will launch the book in Sydney. You can RSVP for the Sydney Launch HERE
  • Adelaide Tuesday 22nd November – The Adelaide launch will be held during the ‘opening drinks’ of the Annual Conference of the Society of Risk Analysis (SRA) and is open to anyone to attend. The launch will be led by local Adelaide based risk expert Matthew Thorne with Naomi Cogger, BSc(Hons), PhD Senior Lecturer Epidemiology from Massey University in New Zealand, providing a critique of the book.  There will also be an opportunity to meet many Members of the SRA including President-elect Associate Professor Kirrilly Thompson. Attendees will be able to join the SRA during this event. You can RSVP for the Adelaide Launch HERE
  • Newcastle Tuesday 29th November – The Newcastle launch will be held at the office of Lifeline Hunter Central Coast. The book will be launched by the CEO of Lifeline Hunter Central Coast, Gillian Summers and all profits from books sold at this event will be donated to Lifeline Hunter Central Coast. You can RSVP for the Newcastle Launch HERE

Copies of the book will be available for purchase at each of the launches and Rob would be delighted to sign them for you on the night.

If you can’t attend one of the launch events in person but would still like to buy the book, you can do that here – https://dolphyn.com.au/news/books/

We hope to see you at one of the launch events.


Robert Sams

Email:                      robert@dolphyn.com.au

Web:                        www.dolphyn.com.au

Book:                        Social Sensemaking – Click HERE to Order

Social Sensemaking Logo

Disrupting the Methodology of Safety

Disrupting the Methodology of Safety

There seems a real focus at the moment on finding better and ‘different’ ways (or methods) to ‘do’ Safety; both in organisations and for those working in the field. There is a lot of good discussion happening and in particular, it is positive to note that much more attention seems to be focused on a greater understanding of people and why we do what we do. Disruption is the buzz word, and in this piece I ponder what it is that we should really be disrupting.

To begin, I do consider a greater focus on understanding people as a step in a better direction (rather than a direction of fear, blame and punitive measures), however, it is also a path that we need to tread down carefully and cautiously.

So why do I suggest care and caution; surely any different ‘method’ we develop that focuses more on people is good (and better), right?

While it is hard to argue with this on face value, the question that comes to mind as I reflect on this, is of what a search for a new and/or different ‘method’ will achieve, without a corresponding challenge and disruption of the predominant ‘methodologies’ (worldviews) that seem to dominate in Safety?

Do we need to be cautious not to get trapped in the especially seductive appeal of new techniques, tools and gizmos (all ‘methods’) and instead, really challenge ourselves to ‘disrupt’ and question the predominantly ‘engineering’ and ‘fixing focused’ methodologies that seem to lead our current approach to Safety?

This is the question that I would like to explore here and I will do this through a story about a recent experience.

Read the full article first published HERE