On 1 December 1862, Abraham Lincoln addressed the US congress. His message was controversial – it was about the emancipation of the enslaved workforce. He said:
“The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise — with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”
In many ways, safety is in a crisis. The ideas that have taken us to where we are today also seem to be what is inhibiting further progress. The doctrine of separating people from danger by implementing increasing layers of constraint may have once yielded positive returns. But in today’s fast changing, globalised, competitive, and technology-driven world, such notions are increasingly ‘inadequate’, impotent and counterproductive.
The good news is that there are plentiful detection, intelligence, imagination, innovation, and collaborative capacities readily available to ‘rise with the occasion’. However, prevailing safety ideas/frameworks make poor use (if any) of such abilities. In fact, from the current safety perspective these abilities are mostly seen as a threat or problem. Most safety initiatives are about controlling, programming, increasing surveillance and observation, holding people accountable to predefined plans, roles and responsibilities, and thereby decreasing the opportunities ‘to think anew’ – to let loose imagination, innovation and collaboration.
It is my firm belief that many initiatives to improve safety have tied people and organisations into constraining dogmas. Equally, it is my belief that the safety perspective can contribute to making people and organisations better, smarter, healthier and more productive.
‘Safety differently’ was once the name of a discussion group in Brisbane. It was about 10 people who came together with the intention ‘to think anew, and act anew’ around safety. The conversations inspired the name of this website. Similarly, Sidney Dekker has published a book with the same name. And Jeff Lyth has created the Safety differently LinkedIn group. Furthermore, discussions are underway about creating a ‘safety differently thinking event/conference’ of sort. What was once a discussion group may perhaps have started to become a ‘movement’.
Safetydifferently.com will continue to be a not for profit website where people shape, connect and share ideas and practices that can ‘enable’ a safer world. If you are looking for ways to ‘ensure’ safety, you will probably be disappointed. However, if you’re interested in exploring new ideas and sharing emerging practices to helppeople and organisations to succeed under varying conditions, then the ‘safety differently space’ may be for you.
When people come together around a common cause, new things are likely to happen. As such, safetydifferently.com will continue to be a platform to share ideas and practices from people who want to innovate, change, disenthrall and even revolutionize safety. I predict there will be lots of trials, a great deal of learning and feedback required, some experimentation, as well as some arguments.
From a website editorial point of view, a few experiments are underway:
- A page with Safety Differently relevant papers has recently been uploaded (see resource tab in the menu above). At this stage, Sidney Dekker has made some of his writings available, but other contributions will be added. Please let me know if you wish to contribute suitable material (use contact form under the about tab in the menu above).
- Crowd sourced translation of novel safety concepts. This will be a Wikipedia-like platform developed for people interested in collaboratively designing organisational tools, for example ‘indicators for organisational drift’ The end product will be freely available for anyone to download and use. Suggestions of concepts you’d like to develop would be very welcome.
Furthermore, new and old authors have submitted blog posts for sharing their take on what can and needs to happen to do safety differently.
I’m excited to see where Safety Differently will go next.