Spud Head Safety Diagnostics What is a Spud Head? FIND OUT HERE I was at a conference last week where people were presented with supposed diagnostics that could determine in someone was a risk taker. The general idea was to run people through the diagnostic tool, and weed out the risk takers. Or, use the diagnostic in the selection process to keep risk takers out of the business. Everyone one around was taking note, how could they get their hands on this excellent tool. I looked around and I seemed to be the only one cringing at this spud head message. I have written about this before http://www.safetyrisk.net/safety-eugenics-and-the-engineering-of-risk-aversion/http://www.safetyrisk.net/risk-psychometrics-spin-and-snake-oil/ But there seems no shortage of people who don’t think about the trajectory of this kind of thinking. I turned to the person beside me who seemed pretty keen on the idea and asked them, would Richard Branson get a job in this company, clearly no. You see, there are always by-products for goals and trade offs for absolutes, if we take risk takers out of organisations what are we left with? No imagination, no play, no learning, no creativity and what could be best described as a ‘spud head’ workforce. Safety eugenics is dangerous stuff and potato heads everywhere should smell it, name it and reject it. Dumbing down the workforce is no solution for managing risk. The sign below was sent to me recently from a building site, someone thought the cause of accidents and incidents was stupidity. This is simplistic spud head thinking. Intelligence has little to do with how we make decisions. Otherwise people with high IQs would have less accidents. Until one develops a potato head understanding of fallibility and stops speaking spud head perfectionist language, this kind of attribution and projection of cause will simply get worse. Helped along by the perfectionism of zero that floods the workplace. When the person who puts up the sign makes their next mistake, does that mean they are stupid? Of course when you don’t understand safety, have been dumbed down to ‘real risk’ so that people don’t think, they can’t discern risk because risk has been made evil. There is no learning without risk. Spud heads think anyone who takes a risk or makes a mistake is an idiot or stupid. This is all orthodox spud heads have left, they don’t understand human decision making, they don’t understand social psychology, they don’t understand human fallibility and think anyone who does something wrong or makes a mistake is simply an idiot. Wow, that will make a change culture, now everyone will be safe because we have kept the idiots off site. Unfortunately, such thinking is anti-human and delusional. If mistakes are the results of a lack of intelligence then just increase the training regime and mistakes will stop. This too is spud head ideology, this is not how fallible people make decisions. Spud Head Safety Diagnostics was last modified: June 24th, 2014 by Dr Rob Long …
There are several psychometric tools which measure all sorts of brain (psycho) measures (metrics). Psychometrics are used by many organisations including personality assessments, emotional intelligence, social intelligence, leadership behaviours, verbal and numerical ability, cognitive and thousands more. Skills are all very well, but how people behave has a major impact on how these skills are used. Consider for example a poor manager for example, who bullies staff and it is not addressed. Imagine that this organisation uses the prolific method of selecting people, in a simple example: 'he looks nice, he went to my school, he's a guy so he will be good at sales, ah he plays rugby too so is probably a good team player'. This is the 'people-like-me' method of selection which has very little to no link with performance. What it would be predict is that you might get on with this person. But imagine when things get tough? Suddenly you don't like him any more, and you don't even see the skills he has. The pressure is put on (by manager), but the guy doesn't want to/can't leave the job. The manager (because he was chosen on the same basis) rallies his people around him to bully the guy further. This vignette happens. I am often surprised by the lack of sophisticated tools we have for selection people for jobs to include a wide range of abilities, behaviours, etc. These tools are around. Firstly of course, we need to know what is involved in the job (job analysis). If this is not done adequately, and neither is the selection process, the result is going to be downhill.
A good selection process will include a range of methods which 'predict' performance (but we need to know what that 'performance' looks like). So many stories of (still) poorly performing organisations in this regard. So easy to fix.
What is at work is heuristics, ie. the theory/idea (rooted in research) that we are very poor at making decisions. Particularly complex decisions like selecting people for a job. Yet we are so sure that we can do this. Egocentric managers and recruiters will be convinced of their ability to do this though. Often the poor person selected will be the worse off either by suffering from stress, but the organisation also loses from the loss of productivity as all the palaver by the poor manager trying to rally his team and get rid of the person selected!!
I constantly hear how enterprises are poor at innovation, bad at product development and unresponsive to business change. So it begs the question, why do so many organizations get it wrong?
Barbara Lond's insight:
Well, as someone who works at improving organisations, I'd say it's because of recruiting the wrong people, not assessing people, 'groupthink' (not assessed at selection, not assessed at development), poor culture (because of above). If there's one word (of a few) drives me up the wall is 'unleashed'. Organisations really do do the daftest things in my observation and experience. I note the 'con' above in the term 'hire and retain the best available talent'. For me, if recruitment is not done effectively, you've had it. The con says above 'how to identify talent, how to reward'. Well, how about doing a job analysis first. Most organisations think recruitment is easy. But they fail to think about what sort of people do you need to be able to 'unleash' in the first place. What sort of development activities do we give our managers and leaders? Then reward people for delivering on those behaviours. It's actually not that difficult. The starting point is the hard bit, but there's often too many people who don't listen to others who have the good ideas. Cultures are often poor as a result, things don't work so you get 'learned helplessness' in organisations (no point in trying, so we will just carry on). Leadership, recruitment, selection, development, reward. This is all takes knowledge, expert knowledge. I of course would say psychological knowledge. We have the human capital to do this work. But lots of information is hidden behind 'titles' and assumptions about those titles. And lack of really knowing the work involved, and behaviours to create a culture which would foster, let alone 'unleash' anything. So I say (well I would wouldn't I), get in a psychologist). But then of course, you need to be able to listen. And that's hard for some who like to think they know everything. So then you have all this information, and most people, many people, are caught up in cognitive overload, biases, they get more 'arsey', listen less, they know best, don't need a psychologist, let alone an HR person. And so it goes on ...
"In Adam Smith's world the invisible hand was a wonderful force, and the fact it was invisible made no difference whatsoever. The irrational invisible hand is a different story altogether - here we must identify the ways in which irrationality plays tricks on us and make the invisible".
This is interesting too. Who is more susceptible to these 'invisible' forces? Certainly the recent 'slavery' case talks of 'invisible handcuffs'.
Barts Health NHS Trust is axing or downgrading more than 600 nursing posts in an “efficiency drive” across its six hospitals before Christmas.
Barbara Lond's insight:
This article quotes, "The trust now has more than 1,600 vacancies ... But it insisted it would “not compromise” on safety, saying the number of nurses on wards would exceed RCN’s guidelines.", and "... it would not compromise on safety, saying the number of nurses on wards would exceed RCN's guidelines", and further "that [owing to the downgrades/axing] staff are angry, distressed, and demoralised". A news story I know, but probably right about how the staff feel. I'm curious (once again, I know it's only a news story) how a spokesperson for Barts said that the wards number would exceed the RCN's guidelines and the safety aspect, and if true, would highlight some naivety around 'safety' - this is not a transaction process - if the organisation is affected by a large number of cuts/downsizing, and this is not handled effectively, then it doesn't really matter how many staff you have, it's likely to affect the whole organisation and its performance. If it really is true (the quote), then I would advise Barts to think seriously again. It looks more like a reactive change to the inspections by the CQC?? Hardly a recipe for an effective safety culture. www.riskybusiness.theblcgroup.co.uk
8K Health : The Atlantic by Laura Smith / 2d // keep unread // hide // preview
A group of 16 people sits in front of large Mac desktops in clusters of three and four at a start-up in Brooklyn. Aside from the steady tapping away at keyboards, there is little noise. It’s six o’clock, and people just want to go home. With its open floor plan, casual dress code, and creative staff, this is considered a great place to work—but still there is something vaguely dissatisfying about the space, and it is not the only office like this.
In Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace, released this week, Nikil Saval tries to put his finger on just where the office went wrong. Certainly an improvement on factory work and types of manual labor, the office remains “at once harmless and ominous.” Saval’s story centers on the question: “Why have the best intentions of planners and architects, designers and executives, fallen short of producing a happy environment for the American worker?”
Near the end of Cubed, Saval takes a tour with a Google representative who shows him Google’s juice bar and tells him that it is the Googlers’ favorite hangout spot. The rep asks Saval why he thinks this is so. “The juices?” Saval ventures. The rep points “to the floor-to-ceiling windows, letting in a glimpse of green and late afternoon California springtime sun. ‘It’s the proximity to nature,’ he said.”
Then, perhaps the reason office satisfaction proves elusive is because we don’t understand our primal biology. Ours is the age of the “knowledge worker,” in which people are paid to think. So what can we learn from the environments our brains evolved in—our original “workspaces”—the outdoors?
According to Cambridge’s Encyclopedia of Hunter Gatherers, “Hunting and gathering was humanity’s first and most successful adaptation, occupying at least 90 percent of human history.” The savannah was our original “workspace,” and though our world today hardly resembles our ancestral environment, our biological rules still apply. E.O. Wilson, the famed biologist who studies biophilia, said our inherent appreciation and longing for natural environments, explains that “beauty is our word for the qualities that have contributed most to human survival.” Waterfalls signify an abundant source of life, flowers signify bountiful land. We are wired to crave the natural world.
Stephen Kellert, a social ecologist at Yale, told me that our poor office design is a sign that we don’t see ourselves as animals, as having biological needs. “The measure of progress in our civilization,” he said, “is not embracing nature, but moving away from nature and transcending nature and becoming independent of our biology.” Kellert told me that he finds zoos ironic. We consider it “inhumane” to keep a gorilla in an indoor, concrete environment with no exposure to greenery or anything resembling its natural habitat, and yet we put ourselves in these environments all the time.
When humans were hunting kudu in the open savannahs, we worked in motion, engaging our whole bodies, reacting to changing scenery. In the 1960s, Robert Propst invented the Action Office. He conceived of it as a “liberation”: a desk nestled between three walls, which the worker could arrange to his pleasing. The worker could alternate between sitting and standing, foreshadowing today’s standing and walking desks. In Cubed, Saval writes, “[Propst] stress[ed] the danger to one’s mental and physical vitality, of sitting too long at one’s desk.” But Propst’s invention was not the liberation he intended. Executives saw the Action Office as an opportunity to cram as many workers into a hive-like formation as possible, eliminating opportunities for movement and making the spaces smaller. Today, we call the Action Office the cubicle.
Since the dawn of the office, people have been concerned with productivity and attention spans. William James, one of the fathers of modern psychology, posited that office workers would be faced with the enormous challenge of maintaining voluntary attention. He and others like him promoted work that fostered involuntary, or what they called “primitive,” attention. Today, a growing body of research suggests that nature promotes the kind of involuntary or primitive attention that James prescribed.
Eva Selhub and Alan Logan’s book Your Brain on Nature references a 2005 study in which people were shown photographs after performing a cognitively demanding task. Some were shown nature scenes, while others were shown urban scenes. Then the two groups were given another cognitively demanding task. Those who looked at nature scenes demonstrated faster reaction times and made fewer mistakes. Similarly, a study of over 100 schools in Michigan showed significant gains in academic performance on standardized tests in classrooms that had views of green vegetation. Most simply put, this research suggests that thinking is best suited to natural environments.
Additionally, viewing nature can alleviate workplace stress. The authors of Your Brain on Nature refer to viewing nature as “visual Valium” and cite some of the earliest examples of studies on nature’s chemical effect on us. By measuring cortisol levels of people who had walked in forests and comparing them with people who walked in urban environments, the Shinrin Yoku studies in Japan found that walking in forest environments reduced stress, hostility, and depression while improving sleep and vigor. Similar studies have found that even the presence of plants or natural images can have similar effects on stress levels. Additionally, nature has implications for office teamwork. A California study found that those who worked with desirable views of nature showed more activity in the opioid receptors, an area that when active, is known for causing people to be less likely to perceive themselves as stressed and more likely to form emotional bonds and focus less on negative memories.
The good news is that people are beginning to recognize the importance of incorporating elements of the natural world into the workspace. Stephen Kellert is currently retrofitting a 1.1 million-square-foot office tower in Midtown, Manhattan with plant life and gardens, natural ventilation, materials, shapes, and lighting. In another example of progressive office design, Patricia Fox, a London-based designer, premiered her outdoor office, which she dubbed “The Rooftop Garden of Tomorrow” at the Chelsea Garden Show. The rooftop office features lush greenery, WiFi, tablet charging stations, and a tea wall where office workers can pick their own fresh teas. She highlighted the rejuvenation that working in this kind of environment could provide and told me that she sees the model as scalable. Offices like hers could conceivably be built anywhere with a roof that could structurally support a garden.
At the end of Cubed, Saval visits “revolutionary offices” in places like Silicon Valley and Amsterdam that attempt to create a complete ecosystem, the suggestion being: Why would you leave? Everything you need is here. But when you wade through the workplace’s history, perhaps our most enduring desire for the office is to be there less. In Cubed, Saval references an 1880s pamphlet entitled “Blessed Be Drudgery” that argued that though office work was mundane, and though we might “crave an outdoor life,” culture and leisure could only be obtained through “our own plod … In one word, it depends upon our drudgery.”
Similarly, in Your Brain on Nature, Selhub and Logan point out that in 1965, a Time magazine cover proclaimed that in the future “the computer will allow man to return to the Hellenic concept of leisure”—an idea that is laughable today in a world where computers have blurred the distinction between leisure and work, creating a life punctuated by constant email-checking rather than a life spent reclining, eating grapes, and discussing philosophy.
Though there are many aspects not to be envied about the hunter gatherers’ lifestyle (hunger, increased vulnerability to weather, etc.), Ian Tattersall, the curator emeritus at New York’s American Museum of Natural History told me that early man’s work habits may have more closely resembled this Hellenic ideal of leisure than we typically imagine. A study of Kalahari hunter gatherers suggested that they only worked for four hours a day. Tattersall said that this certainly was not true for all hunter gatherers, but added, “There is no doubt that settled life was a Faustian bargain for humans and hasn't done the biosphere much good.”
I asked Nikil Saval if he thought cubes with a view were the answer to the office’s woes. “Design only does so much,” he said. The real answer, he explained, is moving to a shorter or more flexible workday, which would give workers the autonomy to pursue outdoor activities on their own terms. It is the endless workday confined to a single space that is so damning to white-collar well-being.
I posed this idea to Kellert, who acknowledged that we likely do spend too much time in our offices but explained that that is all the more reason to make that environment as naturally appealing as possible. “I’m a great believer that you have to work with the world you have.”
As part of Vivid Ideas 2016, UTS will host a talk with Australia's leading industry, government and university representatives, designed to challenge and spark vibrant discussion around new ideas and embracing technological and business innovation.
Startups may embrace the “fail-fast” mantra, but many leaders are risk-adverse.
Barbara Lond's insight:
I completely agree. I would like to write more but I can't see the original post on my mobile version! Suffice to say the image I have in my mind is very afraid and stuck leaders in organisations too afraid to do anything, with the new techie start-ups trying to climb the barbed wire fences that these organisations erect.
Integration will only become a reality if staff, service users and the public are fully informed and engaged with the proposed reformsMost people involved in delivering health and social care are committed to making integration happen.
Barbara Lond's insight:
Yes we know. So, on just seeing a notice at the tube station about 5.10pm, it's advertising a local 'NHS commissioning group'. What would the public know about that? Not a lot.
Many successful business people integrate religion into their careers.
Barbara Lond's insight:
Well, bringing your spiritual side to work is fine. But saying 'many successful ... integrate religion into their careers' doesn't really chime with being 'spiritual'. What the article does talk about is 'quiet reflection' and 'meditation'. Well, that's good for anyone, as research shows. There are lots of benefits with 'mindfulness' meditation, and I believe that there is not enough 'mindfulness' (awareness, etc.) leading to poor decision-making in organisations. But it's not really to do with religion. Mindfulness is really just a practice - a good and beneficial. I would highly recommend it and you can do this at work at any time - 5 minutes has clear benefits. I should know, I practice myself!
Report on Government Services 2014 - Productivity Commission - volume E - Health due for publication Thursday 30 January 2014 Will cover: Public hospitals Primary and community health Mental health...
Barbara Lond's insight:
I have heard some reports anecdotally echoing worry about fewer jobs for people. I have to say, from what I know, experience, and hear, there are jobs to be had, but many organisations lack cultures, structures and mindsets to see the opportunities. Many people are fixed in their own way of thinking. And/or protecting their own positions. What I think is missing is creative and innovating thinking, emotional resilience to cope with change, based on a kind of narcisism and egocentrity. But maybe the changes won't lead to completely losing a job?? We have plenty of opportunities in terms of problems to solve in the world, and new technologies coming board. I think many leaders are not familiar with technology to understand, and may listen to the cries of technology taking over. When it may take a whole new workforce to understand the new organisational realities (as well as, as this article points out, in health, technology to assist people staying at home), learn and develop the new technology to make things happen. Many leaders are myopic. We need more curious leaders, not just the transformational behaviours. Leaders that want to learn and are agile enough to change. I see this as a major block to economic recovery. These are only hunches; some of it based on experience and what I see, some on what others see and hear (anecdotal), some based on research. From what I see, we have young, trendy pockets of 'techs' sitting outside of organisations and leaders not knowing how to engage with them, and vice versa. In a nutshell.
Sociologist Patrick Sharkey proves a mother’s insecure upbringing harms her child as surely as a neighbor’s broken window.
Barbara Lond's insight:
Barbara Lond's insight:
I'm scooping this across 3 of my subject areas: Psychology and Home, Governance and Leadership, People & Organisational Psychology. The reasons is that there are implications for individuals, governments, schools, diversity practitioners, as there are macro and what I would term 'meta' issues here (think 'joined up working' many public sectors across the globe bang on about).
This scoop is highlighting the multigenerational effects of poverty, but also the environmental factors that affect IQ. I've put below here some key findings.
"-multigenerational exposure to concentrated poverty is more dangerous than current exposure will also become a truism.
-Sharkey has made it suddenly intuitive to recognize that women raised in stressful, violent, and insecure environments will find it more difficult to develop in their own children the confidence and trust to explore the knowledge and experience necessary for healthy development.
-... argument of this book forces us to acknowledge that the results of efforts to improve the environments of today’s children may not be fully understood or evaluated until we can observe the performance of these children’s children."
I was speaking to a high profile civil servants only last week and I was asking what was a major factor influencing deprivation, use of social services. The answer was IQ. I of course know\knew there are/would be other factors; I wanted to ask someone on the ground how their policies were being informed (it was not the UK I might add where I live).
We need to take action. But as I always we need to understand first before we change anything. But as usual, it looks like some countries are taking action based on poor 'research' (the IQ finding was done by a 'research unit' I was told) without really understanding what they are doing.
The Dilemma of Closeness and Distance: A Discursive Analysis of Wall Posting in MySpace
Barbara Lond's insight:
I'm a fan/practitioner of qualitative research, and a psychologist, as well as interested in social media. This research is interesting and here is the author:
Dr. Lewis GOODINGS is a lecturer in social psychology at Roehampton University. His research is dedicated to the area of computer-mediated communication from a qualitative perspective. Dr. GOODINGS uses a constructionist approach to new forms of online communication and is interested in classic notions of identity, community and the self. He is currently working on developing an approach to new forms of social media, including social network sites and other new forms of communication mediums. He is also interested in the broader social dynamics of technology, discourse and organisation from a social psychological viewpoint.
As a psychologist (& other things), and mediator (& just started Phd in Mediation & Conflict Resolution) (& other course), with much experience of 'dysfunctional organisations', interested to read this article by Malory Nye in the Huffington Post UK. I am highlighting this bit:
"... most of our images of PTSD come from much more ‘obvious’ and dramatic causes of such shock ... we are most likely to think of the soldiers in Afghanistan ... In the cases of PTSD at work, then the obvious examples are of fire-fighters, on-patrol police officers, and other emergency workers who have had near death shocks in extreme circumstances. Each of these clearly are people who may be suffering from PTSD."
The article cites 2 cases (both in the NHS) of bullying where the victim was diagnosed with severe PTSD (one was a consultant doctor) with payouts of £4.2M and £0.9M respectively. Apart from the cost and apart from, as the article says, the circumstances which led to a claim being able to be made (whereas in others, there may still be abuse, but without the legal requirements to bring a claim), workplace abuse is/could be quite rife. I see/have seen the mobbing behaviour quite quickly arise in a course, and also on fora where the aim of the course/group is supposed to be one where the people involved are professional people people (PPP!), where dignity and respect are part of code of conduct norms. So imagine what it's like where there is no 'invisible' (moral?) requirement for this? Added to this, all the stress of daily living. I sympathise with those/you who are reading this and who may be suffering in silience. Don't.
Many 'stress' programs focus on the individual. This is important, but organisation cultures need to change. Stress programs focus on the individual as being the problem. This may be the case, and resilience training may help. But this is really a 'governance' issue also in my humble opinion, which I was tweeting about earlier this morning.
(And yes, before anyone comments (and of course you can!), mediation is generally not appropriate for workplace bullying, for all sorts of reasons. Email me if you want to on email@example.com).
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