Randomness and disruption are good medicines in risk assessment.

Randomness and disruption are good medicines in risk assessment.

Mar 2nd, 2016

We recently saw Tim Harford’s TED talk entitled “How Frustration can Make us more Creative”.

During the talk he reports psychological tests have shown that students who received handouts written with “difficult-to-read fonts” did better than students with “easy fonts” handouts! Those tests show that “a little difficulty” leads to better results because it slows down the students and forces them to think more.

Randomness and disruption are good medicines in risk assessment

He then cites complex problem solving, which general consensus conside to require a step by step procedure: prototype, tweak, test, improve. This widely applied procedure leads to incremental improvements, but can also lead to painful dead-ends. If ramdomness is added (stupid moves, mistakes) dead-end chances are reduced and often quantum leaps occur.

Also, he adds, if a group of professionals is tasked with solving a problem, significantly best results are obtained by a group of strangers rather than a group of friends. The perception of the friends group is that they had good time. They worked well together and performed an excellent job. In other words they are complacent.

This last statement, in particular, leads us to our work at clients’ operations.

We always adopt a “Daddy what’s that” attitude. Indeed, we ask questions and never accept elliptical answers. We know by looking at the eyes of the clients’ employee that after a while, this drives them nuts. However, we do not care!
Our goal is to disrupt workers’ complacency. We introduce that randomness that psychological tests show to be so important.

It generally works this way:

  • DAY 1: we ask questions, we get elliptical answers, “I do not know”, “we have always dunit that way”, “Joey knew, but is now retired”…etc.  Sometimes we actually run heavy risks of getting a punch in the nose!
  • DAY 2: people know better: the disruption has provoked a tad of shame and lots of curiosity. They have discussed, possibly read old reports, called Joey… Sometimes we joke that likely DAY 2 gain of knowledge is one of the largest, immediate and most economical advantages of performing a risk assessment.
  • DAY 3: interviews and meetings become more fruitful, hazard identification is easier as a creative environment is finally in place and complacency has been erased.

Over the years the “Daddy what’s that?” attitude has brought incredible benefits to our clients and great professional satisfaction to us.
Remember what you are doing is not an audit. It is not a policing act. You just have to be earnest in your desire to understand how the system works.
Please do try it and let us know how it has worked.
Riskope does not assume any responsibility if you get a punch in the nose, though!

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Category: Hazard, Risk analysis, Risk management

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