The Sad Story of Safety Cultures and Rubik’s Cubes

My son, Cooper, recently took on my challenge of completing the Rubik’s Cube puzzle. This was something I have never achieved myself despite spending many many hours when I was younger (and again recently) to get beyond completing only 1 side!

There is a certain logical process to follow apparently (it can all be found on YouTube) but there is still a level of belief and skill to solving it on your own. He is now able to complete it in under 2 minutes which, for a 10-year-old, I think is impressive (although I am biased!!).

Cooper was in the office with me during one of the all too frequent pupil-free days that seem to occur these days (yeah don’t get me started). One of our team challenged him to complete 4 in 10 minutes. We have a lot of cubes lying around that we use in some of our programs in case you were wondering!

It got me thinking about all the cubes that never fulfil their destiny….to be solved! I know it’s kinda weird to think like that but surely I’m not the only one that has random thoughts about stuff? Anyway, back to my thought! How many cubes get bought only to never be solved and then cast aside in a cupboard as some sort of symbol of failure that should be hidden away! How sad!

How much cost, time, and enthusiastic energy would have gone into it? And how much frustration, irritation and stress did it cause without ever realising the feeling of success?

If only we could stick to the logical part of the process (the one we know works, right?). Too often, we start with the best of intention and then gradually drift back into instinct, old habits, or other ‘problems’ that come along and distract us.

How many safety culture initiatives end up the way of the unsolved Rubik’s cube? Never achieving their destiny…. success. And for many of the same reasons I’ve just mentioned.

What if we could understand the process of creating that success? What if we could unpack every step and know what it takes to cause the right results? Just like the process of solving the cube…. a blueprint to success.

Just as my son has done with the Rubik’s Cube, I’m so glad to be part of the success that we achieve with the organisations we partner with on creating safer cultures. We have the blueprint! We know it works!

How did Cooper get on with the ‘4 Cubes in 10 minutes’ challenge? Done in just over 11 minutes! Success or failure? I suppose it will depend on how you view that particular result.

What I do know is that 4 more Rubik’s Cubes have just fulfilled their destiny. That has to be a success, even if it is a weird one!

What were they thinking? – The Emotional Brain in Safety

Following an incident, you’ll often hear people say, “what were they thinking?”. This comment implies that the individual was consciously thinking and making logical choices. Based on neuroscience, we know that the majority of behaviour is driven by the emotional brain and not the logical brain. For this reason, we need to understand the brain and how it works.

Our brains are wired to survive and conserve energy. Decision making is either primarily a function of the logical brain, known as the Pre-Fontal Cortex (PFC), or the emotional brain known as the Limbic System. Conscious thinking consumes high levels of energy and the brain will, where possible, instinctively switch from ‘conscious thinking’ (PFC) to ‘automatic thinking’ (Limbic).

For example, in safety, a new task often requires a high level of thinking and the engagement of our PFC. Also, there is a healthy level of fear associated with doing the tasks which means we consciously scan for risks. Over time however, we get comfortable, feel safe and reduce our level of conscious thinking. The task is now executed mainly driven by the habitual part of our brain. In safety, this leads to complacency and normalisation of deviations.

Also, certain emotional states such as irritation, distraction, pressure and fatigue override logical and conscious choice. When these are present, the logical brain shuts down and behaviour is driven by the emotional, often reactive part of the brain.

The majority of behaviour is not logical. It is a function of how the brain works and emotional responses.

Rather than automatically judge behaviour, we need to understand how the brain works, what role the emotional brain plays and develop strategies with the brain in mind to ensure safe operations and a culture of healthy fear.

Mental Wellbeing with the Brain in Mind – Tasmania

Jimmy spent 3 days as part of the Tasmanian Government Employer of Choice Awards Roadshow to present on Mental Wellbeing in the workplace. Participants listened to the power of the brain in terms of beliefs and mindset, how we react, and how we can interrupt our reactions to move into response mode, and the power of commitment to action on mental wellbeing in the workplace.

Next steps include a webinar series and public ‘cluster’ programs to equip leaders with the tools and knowledge on how to support themselves and others around them.