What is the Mind of Safety?
What limits Safety in innovation, creativity, ideas and vision are the upshifting ideologies of behaviourism/positivism. Whatever slogans one is attracted to, checklists one completes, or how much one repeats the word ‘differently’, how many podcasts one listens to or processes one thinks essential, nothing is unlikely to improve in the industry until these ideological anchors are shifted from around Safety’s neck. There are many other ways of thinking other than the engineering-regulatory-science mindset.
The reason why these ideologies are unhelpful is because they continue to direct Safety into the wrong place to find strategies and new ideas for tackling risk. Most often Safety understands itself as a brain-cognition problem and blocks out safety as a Mind-Existential problem. Why does this matter?
There is a host of research into what psychologists and philosophers know as the mind-body-brain problem. Remarkably, no one really knows how people learn, even the debates about how language is acquired is extensive and remains a mystery. Ah, there’s that M word again, no one in safety wants the M word and rarely speaks it, everything is apparently certain, doubt is the demon. The truth is, how humans acquire knowledge, language and meaning is both mysterious and enacted by faith. There is still so much we don’t know. So in face of the need to make a decision humans cannot know everything so they ‘satisfice’ ie. they make a leap of faith based on a partial sense of knowing. And this is fine, most of the time we live safely using habits and heuristics to keep us safe.
Part of the problem is that people confuse the nature of the human brain using computer-like metaphors. Safety is not just a cognition problem. Knowing and information is not just a matter of ‘processing’, ‘absorbing’ or ‘computing’. Mistakes are not just made because people don’t have certain knowledge nor because their comprehension is flawed. No amount of extra ‘telling’, ‘lecturing’ or ‘instruction’ can improve the situation. The re-program the brain stuff that floats about safety is just naïve nonsense.
Even when Safety dips its toes into neuroscience it continues to filter its knowledge with its behaviourist/materialist ideology (https://safetyrisk.net/safety-and-non-neuroscience/). There is heaps of evidence to show that the mind is NOT the brain.
Perhaps start here: https://mindmatters.ai/2020/08/why-the-mind-cant-just-be-the-brain/
What is required if one wants to gain some insight and vision into the challenges of risk that face Safety is to broaden one’s perception of the body-mind-brain dialectic.
One of our SPoR groups is currently studying the nature of language development, semiosis and learning. It is from an understanding how children develop syntax and how early life development is semiotic (learning through signs/symbols) that we understand how unconscious messaging works. This research involves some pretty heavy reading of Chmosky, Fuchs, Kristeva, Ricoeur, Derrida and others but there is some wisdom at the end. There is nothing more dangerous in the safety world than the behaviourist-positivist construct that says all knowing and pathways to safety are black and white.
Who knows, one day Safety may embrace the meaning of wisdom and become a ‘helping’ profession.