Robert (Rob) Sams’ recent book, Social Sensemaking – A Reflective Journal; how we make sense of risk, provides new safety and risk thinking when it comes to considering risk in the context of individuals’ behaviors. Sams characterizes his personal experience with safety as a learning adventure as opposed to a safety journey. Adventure depicts the “messiness” of life’s ups and downs and the good times and bad, something that is full of risks, uncertainty, and fun. Journeys are often mapped out and programmed, which is far from our daily safety life. Adventure is an apt description for the world of safety, today.
Sams use of the term Social Sensemaking literally means making sense of things in a social context. Since so much of what we do comes from our non-conscious decision making mind, seeking ideas, feelings, and thoughts from others is critical in our discernment of risk. Making sense of others requires us to be aware of our own agendas in order to be open-minded to new ideas and thinking.
Sams draws upon social psychology and its methods to explore a more humanizing approach to understanding and dealing with risk. Too often we rely on what Sams calls obedience to rule focusing on correcting behavior and implementing more behavioral controls. This obedience to rule (i.e., non-thinking) seduction is typically manifested in such documents as Golden Rules, Company Rules, Cardinal Rules, Life-Saving Rules, etc. According to Sams, humans are not motivated by these anti-humanizing approaches, rather, we are motivated by “truth, value and control” and autonomy support. Safety professionals have been fixated on answers and solutions (e.g., root cause and cause and effect) and not people.
Controversial as this may seem, Sams advocates “influencing others to better consider risk for themselves, rather than managing it on their behalf (through the strict application of process for example).” He suggests this can be accomplished by “creating greater space for thinking and reflecting, and resisting the urge to “dumb down” how people think in our organizations and in society.”
The key to Sams’ approach is to tap into the unconscious mind of workers to better understand how they make decisions regarding risks. Test yourself by wandering around your work site looking for things that might play on your unconscious mind. For example, ask yourself how the words used in signage, the color of walls, the location of work stations and offices impact your unconscious mind.
Read the full Review first published HERE