Ten Secrets to Risk and Safety Motivation and Ownership (republished by request)
Here they are:
1. There are no secrets. What we need to know about motivation is already out there, trouble is, in the risk and safety sector, education in the social sciences is minimal. The best place to start is by unlearning that safety is a science. Safety is not a ‘science’, safety is all about people not objects. Those who focus on objects will never know how to motivate subjects.
2. Motivation is not just about carrot and stick, negative and positive reinforcement, pleasure and pain, pressure to produce or any other binary theory that proposes some simplistic or hedonic interpretation of human complexity. Things actually become easier when you know risk is about uncertainty, humans are complex and safety is a ‘wicked’ problem.
3. There is no silver bullet. There is however the challenge of better understanding what motivates humans and what influences human judgement and decision making. To do this many risk and safety people will have to unlearn some of the binary theories they were fed in their training, and begin to look more holistically at the issue of risk. There needs to be movement away from the science-only, regulation-only and engineering-only approaches to risk to include other social and psychological disciplines in learning.
4. Motivation needs to include consideration of identity, being (ontology) and ethics/value, in other words – meaning/purpose effectiveness, control effectiveness and truth effectiveness. When these are taken into account then simplistic, binary and hedonic principles looks pretty feeble.
5. Interpreting natural human ways of being, such as; creating mental short cuts, habits, auto-pilot and mistakes, as intentional fault and blame, are a big turn off. Attribution of blame to being human is absurd, Isn’t it funny how safety people with no empathy for leadership and management somehow imagine they would make better judgements if put in the same predicament.
6. Empathy. This is the beginning of understanding how to motivate and influence others. Empathy is the trigger for respect but this depends on knowing what you don’t know. The purpose of education is not really knowledge but more often than not, the more educated one becomes the more one realises what one doesn’t know. There seems to be a view in the risk and safety world that believes compliance is simple and that punishment is always good for other people.
7. Focus on learning. Again another area where the risk and safety sector is sadly lacking. In the world of education the study of learning is foundational in connecting with motivation and the quest to impart knowledge and thinking. Once the risk and safety person learns the Act it seems that this entitles one to all the power one needs to influence others. Amazing what a Cert IV can do when learning and thinking are not needed, just compliance.
8. Learn about self regulation. There is much to tackle in understanding the human journey and the nature of self regulation. Understanding of human decision making matures when motivation is understood in terms of meaning/identity, value and truth effectiveness.
9. Talk more with educators. One of the best ways to understand influence and motivation is to engage with an expert, your local primary school teacher would be a good start. Cross disciplinary listening may be torturous for some safety people who prioritise compliance over learning, but these people know much more about learning and influence than most safety people. And for god sake don’t tell these people about risk, they manage more real risk each minute than the average safety person.
10. Understand self and community. The reason some safety people struggle with ‘connecting’ with others is often because they don’t understand themselves or don’t live within a critically reflective and accepting community. One of the big challenges for risk and safety people in becoming better at motivation is being caught within an individualistic framework of interpretation. Motivation and safety are a social process, what Weick calls ‘collective mindfulness’. A ‘community of practice’ (CoP) not about safety people rubbing shoulders with safety people, nothing could be worse. A CoP is about learning through community and the diversity of community. There is much more on this in my third book: Real Risk, Human Discerning and Risk.