Do the Right Thing, It’s Common Sense

Do the Right Thing, It’s Common Sense

imageWouldn’t it be easy and simple if risk was black and white and safety was as easy as ‘check your gut’ (AIHS BoK) and ‘do the right thing’ (Just Culture). Unfortunately, it’s not and talking about ‘common sense’ and other such useless language helps no one.

Duncan Watts book Everything is Obvious, Once You Know the Answer: How Common Sense Fails (2011) puts to bed the many myths that float about the safety industry. ‘Make Safety a Habit’ really? You mean you advocate people not thinking about safety?

Surely the principle message for tackling risk should be: if you have the time, step back, weigh the options and act. Otherwise, trial and error, hit n miss, common sense, do the right thing, check your gut and Rafferty’s Rules rule. Or, maybe those heuristics really do keep you safe.

In Australia the idea of Rafferty’s Rules means no rules, just use common sense, habit or whatever. I first learned about Rafferty’s Rules when I was a kid playing marbles in the schoolyard. I soon discovered that common sense and Raffety’s Rules were sayings to hand over power to the dictator of those rules. Under Rafferty’s Rules you lose all your marbles to common sense and that kid common sense was a big thug. I checked my gut and decided he could have the marbles as opposed to my broken nose.

But risk isn’t a game of marbles and common sense doesn’t exist. Every time we run a training program or induction we are contradicting the idea that such things exists.

Then there is ‘do the right thing’ advocated by some in Just Culture. What is ‘do the right thing’? Well, it’s common sense. Check you’re gut, you’ll know. It’s obvious, ask Rafferty. Uh, if I have to ask Raffety then it can’t be common sense. And what if my gut feeling is different than yours? Confused? You should be. Isn’t such confusion obvious?

Dr Rob Long

Dr Rob Long

Expert in Social Psychology, Principal & Trainer at Human Dymensions
Dr Rob Long
PhD., MEd., MOH., BEd., BTh., Dip T., Dip Min., Cert IV TAA, MRMIA Rob is the founder of Human Dymensions and has extensive experience, qualifications and expertise across a range of sectors including government, education, corporate, industry and community sectors over 30 years. Rob has worked at all levels of the education and training sector including serving on various post graduate executive, post graduate supervision, post graduate course design and implementation programs.

2 Replies to “Do the Right Thing, It’s Common Sense”

  1. Good Observation Dr. Robert

    I have an another Observation as that of yours like the Marble one.

    We are Engineers and Contractors of Thermal INSULATION.

    I have a 12 feet Steel ladder at my home. I noticed that every time it is used and kept back at the basement
    it is left in upright position and i would teach the Electrician or plumber or Mason not to keep it like that whenever they finish their work.
    Instead they should place it on ground in horizontal position.

    They all agreed and said they always did it like that….

    So I decided to check the common sense of my Watchman.

    He said yes he ,all the time placed back the ladder in upright position and these careless technicians would always put it on GROUND. . .

    When I asked his reasons he said the Ladder is meant for climbing up SO it is required to rest, stand up and straight…..So here we need to test our Common sense

    Jameel Pasha
    Managing Director

    1. Thanks Jameel, your story shows how people interpret information which means that knowing and sensemaking is not common. This is why we try to override interpretation with rules but even then they are often poorly articulated and leave people open to interpretation. Whe we know that reasoning is NOT objective then we no longer rely or use the language of common sense.

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