Attending is NOT Paying Attention
The story goes that Merv joined Bunnings as a casual at the ripe old age of 67 and from the first day Merv was known as a clean up freak, he was always busy cleaning up. At the end of each day he would even walk out with a wheelbarrow full of rubbish and take it to his ute and drive it to the tip. He did this religiously each day until the security guards became suspicious. So, as Merv walked out one day they asked to search his rubbish, and they fossicked through everything and only found rubbish. Merv kept this up for 9 months as did the security staff until Merv finally handed in his resignation, he’d had enough. So, as Merv walked out on his last day one of the security guards asked, ‘I’m sure you’ve been stealing stuff Merv but each time we caught you with nothing, what have you been filching?’ Merv replied, ‘wheelbarrows’.
It’s so easy to allow cognitive bias and indoctrinated focus to blind one to the bloody obvious. It’s like keeping a hazard register of thousands of hazards but being blind to risk. In a similar way Zero is so busy counting injury rates it can’t see the people who are injured. Once you’ve been indoctrinated with the traditional safety compliance mindset, confirmation bias takes over (https://www.britannica.com/science/confirmation-bias ) and critical thinking is diminished.
One of the many critical skills in listening is the power of ‘attending’. Attending has very little to do with ‘paying attention’ but when one knows how to ‘attend’ then one’s perception improves. This is how one learns to listen to symbols (https://safetyrisk.net/listening-to-the-symbols-of-christmas/ ). The metaphor of ‘listening’ is closely tied to the practice of ‘attending’.
Attending involves a range of skills such as Unconditional Positive Regard (UPR) and this includes the skill of suspending judgment and agenda. Unless one knows how to practice UPR it’s not likely that you are listening, UPR can be turned on and off as needed but requires extensive practice. Attending is NOT a technique but rather a disposition. The first step in learning to ‘attend’ is NOT wanting to control others, a tough ask for anyone indoctrinated in traditional safety. Who would have thought that the first step in ‘helping’ others in risk would be rejecting the very foundation of traditional safety – telling. So, attending is about how one is oriented to others and to the world.
Attending is dispositional and essential to skilled investigation (event exploration). The enemy of attending is ‘scapegoating’ (https://safetyrisk.net/scapegoating-and-safety/ ). Similarly, effective questioning skills are dispositional and not about technique (https://safetyrisk.net/questioning-skills-and-investigations/ ). One will never learn how to ask effective questions if one cannot suspend agenda and ‘attend’.
The idea of ‘attending’ comes from Rogerian counselling (https://positivepsychology.com/client-centered-therapy/ ) and denotes a ‘democratic’ and person-centred method of ‘helping’. Attending is an essential pedagogy for learning and yet you will never read about this when Safety talks about ‘learning’. The omission of any discussion of pedagogy in ‘Safety talk’ about learning demonstrates that learning is not being discussed but rather ‘schooling’. When Safety talks about ‘learning’, it never discusses what theory of learning it is talking about (https://safetyrisk.net/what-theory-of-learning-is-embedded-in-your-investigation-methodology/ ) nor does it define what learning is. Similarly, other critical social sciences are not discussed in relation to learning (see Figure 1. Map of Social Sciences).
Figure 1. Map of Social Sciences
When we discuss pedagogy in iCue Engagement (https://safetyrisk.net/icue-listening-engagement-manual/ ) and in Tackling Risk (https://safetyrisk.net/free-download-tackling-risk-a-field-guide-to-risk-and-learning/ ), we always identify and define critical factors in learning such as: curriculum, pedagogy and theories of learning. There is no help at all in a naïve approach to learning and risk if you want to be effective in what you do, if you want to do something that ‘works’! (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/it-works-a-new-approach-to-risk-and-safety/ ). If you want to learn about pedagogy perhaps start here: https://www.teachthought.com/the-future-of-learning/a-diagram-of-21st-century-pedagogy/ or here: https://envs.ucsc.edu/internships/internship-readings/freire-pedagogy-of-the-oppressed.pdf Nothing is simple when it comes to learning, pedagogy, attending and curriculum.
Here is s concept map of some pedagogies you might like to think about in relation to whatever your theory of learning (https://safetyrisk.net/what-theory-of-learning-is-embedded-in-your-investigation-methodology/ ) is:
The idea that understanding learning is simple, is utter nonsense. If you want to learn about learning speak to educator not a safety engineer!
Without attending there can be no learning, just as there is no learning without risk.
Similarly, if someone is talking about ‘learning’ or ‘culture’ and doesn’t discuss embodiment, the unconscious, mystery, wisdom, symbolism, mythology, archetype, personhood, ethics, pedagogy or social Mind, they are NOT talking about learning or culture. Schooling and training are NOT learning but just about the acquisition of content.
So, if you want to learn, stop focusing of paying attention and start attending.