I was a motivational speaker for the Forum North Health and Safety Conference.
The other motivational speaker for the safety conference was Dr. David Tranter ( picture left from his website) from the school of social work at Lakehead University.
Dr. Tranter's safety motivational speech, Critical Errors in Thinking was very impressive and impactful for this audience.
Dr Tranter created a compelling arguement that workplace safety is jeopardized because we are lazy thinkers. We create pattern of thought based on our assumptions and this routine way of thinking is efficient but dangerous because we forget to question reality, instead we rely on our assumptions.
According to Tratner's research, the Brain has two ways of thinking, fast...where you see a pattern and make a quick association and leap to a conclusion ( how most thought occurs). The second thought pattern is slow. Here we calculate the odds, considers new information, slow down and think things through. Our brain tends to resist this slow thinking because it is uncomfortable. People tend to gravitate towards a cognitive ease, where we want the world to match our beliefs, values and point of view. It takes less mental energy to think fast and most people are hardwired to think this way.
Fast thinking happens because we create shortcuts that allow us to act based on past experience and assumptions. These thought shortcuts are called heuristics.
A good example of fast thinking and its affects on safety is in Swedan drivers switched from left hand to right hand side driving, and overall traffic fatalities went down 17 percent. After a short period, people got used to right hand driving and fatalies went back up ( once fast thinking set in!).
Here are some of the most notable fast thinking Heuristics from the safety motivational speakers motivational speech:
Here we place a high emphasis on the things we know about people ( because people are always so reliable). The example given was with Enron when people screwed up it was pushed under carpet. Problems were forgiven because people assumed others were doing the right thing.
Here we place assumptions based on an anchoring point. Most people are familiar with the website Kijiji. Here someone will ask $500 for an item only worth about $200 but we anchor or assumptions based on the $500.
Here we base judgement on what's in front of our face. For example
your boss may insist you need to tweet because this is what people are doing. It seems like the thing to do because it keeps popping up in front of you.
Here people go with their gut instinct even though the facts seem to suggest otherwise.
Base rate neglect.
Here we assume what's Causably possible instead of what seems likely. We neglect other information based on a simple unquestioned statistic. For instance, if
something works for 1000 people we assume it will work for us . What the statistic doesn't say is the sample was over a million, so the odds aren't as good as they first appear.
Here we assume our success is determined by our efforts and nothing else. Not taking into consideration the competitive environment we forget to factor in competition.
Decision making here will depend on how we frame something, for instance, is it 90 percent fat free or 10 percent fat?
Here we believe we are good at predicting things after the fact. This motivational speech took place the day after the US election and Dr Tratner used the analongy, I knew Obama would win all along.
Illusion of skill.
Here we believe talent and hard work will bring you everything. Usually luck and other circumstances plays a role too. Organizations should factor in opportunity but you may be blinded by the plan. Dr Tranter suggests Planning to exploit opportunity.
We imagine the ideal scenerio and we forget what will undermine our plan.
Here we assign more aversion to loss than gain. Afraid of losing, we miss opportunity. Instead of celebrating failure as opportuties to learn, we flee from them.
Here we are tempted to tackle a difficult question with a simpler one. For instance, if someone were to ask, how happy are you? Most people would assess how happy they are in that moment because it's easier. Versus assessing how happy they are overall.
They reduce it down to something simpler to answer
The compelling safety motivational speaker suggested we can avoid some of these faulty mental traps by:
- Remembering human are mentally lazy.
- Catch yourself lazy thinking.
- Watching for signs of depletion(exhaustion, tiredness). If you feel bored, apathetic or tired, you should renew your depletion. Do this by eating food, laughing, resting, anything that will boost your energy.
- Catch yourself using the easy road ( ie- this is what we did before and it worked)
- Challenge your assumption Take calculated risks and go slow when it is needed
- With the Important decisions, go slow
The safety motivatioanl speaker suggested reading the Book, Thinking Fast and Slow...by Daniel kahnman.