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.
For a start, have you ever paid close attention to commentators in sport? Take for example cricket commentators. If you listen carefully to how they describe things after a wicket has fallen, they become instant experts in the person who has been dismissed. They appear to know exactly why a person made the decision to play the shot or hit the ball in the way that they did. In fact, this is a common theme with sports commentators world wide, where you can regularly hear them say “that was a ridiculous decision”, “that is just about the worst choice they could have made” and they ask questions like “what were they thinking when they did that?”
I wonder if they know much about decision making? Do they understand how bias affects decisions and judgments? What do they know about motivation?
So what can ‘safety’ learn from sport? Here are a few of our thoughts from this morning:
· Understanding the impact of hindsight bias – it’s always easier to make sense of things once they have already happened. Sporting commentators are classics at this, and they are constantly bias in their views when they comment after seeing what has happened. In what ways may we be biased when investigating after an event has occurred? In what ways do you deal with your biases? Are we even aware of our biases, or are most of them in our unconscious?
· Understand fundamental attribution error. We all make rapid decisions without a lot of reflective thinking, each and every day. We need to do this, otherwise we would sit around procrastinating and nothing would ever get done. However, while for the most part this helps us to get by, we also need to be aware that it means that we attribute meanings to things that may not be correct. What things do you find that you regularly attribute to when making decisions?
· Understand the role of luck and skill – how silly does it sound to think that every one of the Australian batsman last night were less skilled than in the game they played at Lords a few weeks ago when the tides were turned and we were ‘giving it to the poms’? Of course, the Australian batsman didn’t loose skill over the past few weeks, they just had a serious case of bad luck. The fact that all of them got out last night for very few runs and in such a short space of time was not because they lost their skill, nor did the English cricket team didn’t gain a lot of skill over the past fortnight. What role does luck play in sport and in life? Do we accept the role of luck, or perhaps lack of it, when considering risk and safety events?
Why is it that we feel the need to get to the bottom of everything? Why is it that we can feel uncomfortable when things are not closed out or finished? What are the trade-offs and associated by-products of an approach that must have an answer for every problem?
When we come to understand that mistakes, like incidents/events, may happen for a range of reasons that are difficult to understand and perhaps some are not explainable, perhaps that is a sign we are maturing in risk and safety. Maybe we’ll never know why the batsman played the bad shot, and does that matter?
As usual, I’d love to hear your thoughts, experiences and comments.
Author: Robert Sams
Phone: 0424 037 112
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