Sense-Making and Decision-Making in Risk
How we understand decision making and sense-making in time constructs how we explain risk and human enactment. Decision-making is about an enactment in the present looking forward (in faith). Sense-making is about how we understand that enactment looking backwards.
The use of the words with a hyphen intends to convey the social and dialectical nature of how a decision is ‘made’ and how sense is ‘made’. Neither decision-making or sense-making are self-evident or objectively known. Furthermore, most of our decisions (95%) are made unconsciously either as heuristics, habits or intuitions. Slow rational decision making where sifts information, makes an assessment and selects an action is inefficient and rare. Most of the time we ‘satisfice’, simply because we do not have the time to consider all options to make a decision.
What happens in reality is we need to take an action limited by time, resources and fallibility (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/fallibility-risk-living-uncertainty/ ) and, in order to live in the world we take the best option at the time considering the constraints (time, knowledge, information, comprehension etc.). This is called ‘satisficing’ and it’s what we do most of the time (Simon (1957) Models of Man, (1947) Administrative Behaviour, (1969) The Sciences of the Artificial).
Humans cannot make ‘perfect’ decisions and even when a decision is made we use confirmation bias, hindsight bias and a host of other loaded perceptions to rationalize and ‘make-sense’ of that decision. Even then we construct sense-making mostly to our worldview so as to reduce equivocality and ‘feel’ a sense of control.
It was Weick (1979 The Social Psychology of Organizing) who stated:
- ‘How do I know what I think until I hear what I say?’ and
- ‘How do I know what I believe until I see what I do?’
This is not a dilemma or a problem but the reality of being fallibly human in a random unpredictable world.
It is however a problem if your worldview is founded in behaviourism, scientism or engineering. These three worldviews re-construct (sense-make) to make actions fit delusions of control, power and certainty.
It is from these worldviews that we get the fear of risk and the delusions of zero. There can never be any perfect decision (zero) when fallible humans are involved. Indeed, to suggest so is not just delusional but proposes the impossible then asks humans to believe it (https://www.consultdss.com/belief-in-the-impossible/). Only DuPont, who killed thousands by intent (https://safetyrisk.net/dark-waters-the-true-story-of-dupont-and-zero/ ) could present such an unethical absurdity and then claim it as morally good. Hayek once stated:
‘I prefer true but imperfect knowledge, even if it leaves much indetermined and unpredictable, to the pretence of exact knowledge that is likely to be false’ (Kay and King (2020) Radical Uncertainty).
The beginning of wisdom in risk is rejecting the fear of uncertainty.
Most incident investigations and associated training are behaviourist constructions applied by cognitive biases to fit a worldview. This is why there is so much missing in such popular methods as icam (https://safetyrisk.net/deconstructing-icam-useful-or-useless/). All safety investigation methods on the market are the same (https://safetyrisk.net/investigations-the-iosh-way/ ). The engineering-behaviourist worldview constructs the outcome it wants but this is NOT sense-making. Similarly, these investigation methods never discuss critical factors such as: subjectivity, personality, cognitive bias, social-bias, unconsciousness, heuristics, semiotics, special literacy, cultural dynamics, learning theory or language/discourse in the way investigations are undertaken (https://safetyrisk.net/the-seek-investigations-donut/).
Sense-making is about embracing the uncertainty of decision making and including as much as possible all of the things Safety never considers, what SPOR calls ‘Safety Silences’.
Risk and fallibility are not the enemy of safety.
By making these the enemy of safety (under the pressure of zero) the industry has simply created a delusion that cannot comprehend reality. Indeed, if one threatens the constructed reality of Safety, it simply retreats into its fortress and demonizes the criticism in retreat back to its constructed framework to ensure certainty. This is how Uncertainty Threat Reduction and Cognitive Dissonance (https://vimeo.com/202589604 ) work.
Rather than face the uncertainty it doesn’t know, Safety retreats into its indoctrinated certainty it does know in fear that uncertainty will dissolve the comfort of its constructed worldview. Such is the threat of Transdisciplinary. One thing is for sure in the mono-disciplinary worldview of safety – no other worldviews or disciplines can offer anything to help understand human decision-making and sense-making. This is the nature of the safety echo chamber. This is the power of zero (https://safetyrisk.net/cognitive-dissonance-and-safety-beliefs/). The mental gymnastics one has to undertake to believe the absurdity of zero is breathtaking. Similarly, the nonsense of predictive analytics.
Just observe when Zero is threatened how ‘believers’ construct compensation processes so as not to admit error. All of this constructed delusion comes undone in the realities of the court room (https://vimeo.com/showcase/3938199 ). Yet, none of this is tackled by any of the associations who form part of ‘fortress safety’.
Of course, there are other views but this requires a leap of faith and the strength to resist the comforts of what one knows and the seductions of uncertainty reduction. If you want to start such a journey you can register for the free Introduction to SPoR Module (https://cllr.com.au/product/an-introduction-to-the-social-psychology-of-risk-unit-1-free-online-module/ ) which will commence in June.