Exploring the uniqueness of Social Psychology of Risk

September 15, 2023



In this podcast, Rob Long and Nippin Anand discuss the uniqueness (not superiority) of Social Psychology of Risk. How SPoR methodology, methods and tools can help us become good listeners and become deliberate about our culture and culture change.


Further information



Nippin Anand, Rob Long


Nippin Anand  00:00

Hello and welcome to another episode of embracing differences with me Nippin. I am the founder of novellus, a company based in the UK specialising in organisational culture and risk maturity. Our work is to make organisations rather people culturally sensitive and risk intelligent. And we promote the idea of transdisciplinary thinking and managing risk, which basically means bringing together different disciplines to make sense of how human beings make decisions, how we learn, and how we learn to work together. Our area of work includes organisational culture, accident investigations, leadership training, and a culture of learning through proven experiential learning methods based on social psychology of risk. Everything we do is semiotic meaning our methods are visual and verbal. And it is only through visual and verbal methods that we begin to appreciate that no two people see the world in the same way. Meaning, if I see things differently than you, then slow down, ask open ended question, start respecting and listening to my point of view, so that we can both learn from each other. That is easier said than done. And to make this point, I’m actually very, very pleased that I had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Rob long. Whilst I was in Canberra, Canberra a few days ago, on my way back home from New Zealand, and we had some great discussions about the psychology of risk. I’m sharing with you the first podcast that I did with him. On this core issue of what is social psychology of risk, there will be more podcasts to follow in the next few days, somebody rob others with other people who have been practising sport for a very long time. And then there will be at least two or three podcasts with Greg Smith, the internationally acclaimed lawyer in health and safety, I also had a chance to meet him on my way back home. So I hope you enjoy this podcast. It’s available on all your favourite channels, Spotify, anchor, Google and pod bean. And if you have any questions, or if you’d like to know more about it, please don’t, please, please feel free to get in touch with me. I’ll do my very best. You can find me at on my website novelist dot solutions. You can also email me at Nippin.anand@novellus.solutions, and one of my team will get back to you. I hope you enjoy this podcast.


Rob Long  02:34

So Nippin, we’ve had four days, four days in Canberra. Remarkable. What would you like to talk about before we take you to the airport



and you fly home? Fly home or fly to meet draw fly


Rob Long  02:48

to meet Greg Smith? And then you go home? So yes, that’s a long way from home. What What would you like to talk about?



I think Rob, maybe the maybe we should talk about a bit, just take a step back and talk about what is social psychology of risk? What is social psychology of risk? In your view? Let’s just talk about that. Because you found it this whole idea of social psychology of risk. So why not hear it from you?


Rob Long  03:16

Yeah, well, there are, there are ways you can see social psychology risk as a technical thing. And there are ways you can see it in a much broader, big, big view. And that’s the view I’ll give, I see the social psychology of risk as a as an orientation, as a disposition in seeing the world. So we look at the world through not just social psychology, but the sociality of humans. And so that becomes the lens with which we see the world. So it’s sometimes helpful to state what social psychology is not. Social Psychology is not human factors, behaviourism or engineering. In fact, it is probably the direct opposite of them. So behaviourism and engineering and all of the so called measurement sciences. don’t tackle the very realities of life which involve semiotics, poetics, social relationships, Transcendence, meaning and purpose. If you’re going to go into questions of meaning and purpose, and you’re going to about to embrace the discussion of say such things as metaphysics, that is completely foreign to those disciplines I discussed. Now it doesn’t mean those disciplines are irrelevant. I depend on it. Engineers like anyone else does. I want to make sure that my car is being engineered well, I want to know that the bridge I drive on has been engineered well. But I don’t want to go to an engineer, if I need counselling for a relationship issue. I don’t want to go to an engineer, if I want to know how to learn how to listen, and how to connect with people. And that’s fine, we know our place. But the one doesn’t work with the other. When I need a doctor, for an ailment, I go see a doctor. And if I’ve got an electrical problem here, I call an electrician. And so social psychology of risk has a quite unique focus on life, and on being that has roots in existentialism and phenomenology. And it doesn’t see the world at all, with that kind of traditional engineering measurement view, when someone’s child has run over on the road, and they’re suffering in hospital, with a seven year old with tubes in and out their arms, and they think they’re gonna lose their chart, you don’t go to an engineer, to talk to you might go to a doctor, but even the doctor may not be very good at understanding the anguish of the mother. So there are disciplines of great relevance, which I think are come under the umbrella of social psychology of risk. semiotics, semiosis, poetics. sociality, phenomenology, there are very, very valid studies under a theology, religion, spirituality, there are very, very valid disciplines just as valid as engineering. So the social psychology of risk is a broad disposition of how to see the world. And it’s a very, very, it’s focused also strongly on ethics. It’s an ethical view of the world. moral philosophy is a very important subset of social psychology risk. instrumentally, why you asked me originally, about the social psychology of risk. What was it that drove you to the point? Cause? In my experience, you’re quite a rare find. Very, very few people will even send me a message and say, Rob, how do you understand culture? I don’t think I’ve I’m interested in why you even asked the question. And you contacted me and said, Rob, tell me what you know about social psychology. So what started in you?



Well, as you know, I, I have a podcast, which is called embracing differences. And the starting point was, was really just to explore your perspective. I never actually go into any podcasts with an agenda. And if you listen to my several podcasts, I normally don’t even talk I give control to the other person, because, you know, who am I to tell them that I know better than them if I have invited them to my podcast? So when I invited you, Rob, you spoke very passionately about your area of work, you not only helped me understand, you also gave me some things to read. Yes. And I remember the first book that you asked me to read, which was metaphors we live by, yes, yes. And you sent me a copy of that book. And I think that was that was in some ways, it was a reinforcement of my my love for language. But I think in many ways, you expose me to, to a way of thinking which I was drifting away from after doing my my my degree in anthropology. So you brought me back into the connection between language and culture that an almost forgotten, because I did my PhD and then for four to five years, I drifted into the the contemporary safety science and the emerging views around the safety. And in some ways you brought me back into it. And, and as I started to become more interested in into it, and now I understand what you call a scaffolding, you gave me more to read and every book I read, it made sense. I think if I look back at it, I cannot explain how I was drawn into it. But one thing that I particularly was very, very impressed with was that care is a worldview. Here is a methodology. Here is a method here is a tool to connect with people. Yeah, because I actually what happened with me it it It probably makes a lot more sense now. I, I had a project, I did a project with the Scottish Government. And I, I developed an app an application. Oh, I didn’t do that. Oh, yes. I mean, it was a huge project it was. So I worked really hard for about two years. And I was so naive to think that people would just share their stories. I used to call them workers, but I don’t anymore, people would share their stories on an app. And I thought that now instead of a near miss, report, how good it would be if somebody was to share their story. So part of the project was working with about four big companies trying to understand how we could change reporting into conversation. Yes, yeah. And we got a lot of funding from the government. And we worked really hard. And the first part of it was really powerful, which is deconstructing the problem with reporting, which we did well, I think, looking back, but as we started to put it into an app, it failed miserably. Nobody would, nobody. I know there are people who have an immense belief in belief in technology and technology can really make things work. But what I realised we had only four or five reports in two years after trying so hard to get people to talk on technology, how naive to think that people will share their experiences. And that was, that was powerful, Rob men when I when I came to social psychology of risk, and understood or tried to understand, what is it that really makes for a conversation? I was so naive. People don’t give you anything. If you approach from the position of a technique. Yes. Data analysis, prediction. Yeah. Measurement measurement. Yeah. And, and so in a way, it was a flawed approach. Because there was no ethic.


Nippin Anand  12:11

Yeah, I mean, I had good intentions, yes, I wanted people to share their experiences. But at the end of it, that sharing of experiences meant first thing, businesses would gain value out of my eyes opened up when, on one occasion, I went on board a ship, and I spoke to a seafarer on board an offshore ship. And he said to me, he said,



You come here to ask me how this lifeboat functions, how the process works, and how how I operate, or how I work out the lowering of the boat. I’ll tell you all that. But first, here, this, I’ve been on this ship. I’ve been on this ship for a while on this company for many, many years, we’ve never had this issue of income taxes. seafarers don’t get income tax, because they live away from the ship for many, many months. So we never have to pay income tax. And now the company says you have to pay income tax. And it’s not. It’s not small money. It’s 30% of my wages. And then Rob, I started, I asked myself, What is this nonsense? I mean, I’m here to understand what some people would say, work as imagined work as done. I’m trying to understand my bridge the gap between the two. Why is he telling me all this about income tax? I’m not interested in all that. I want to understand work. I want to understand safety. But I, I patiently listen, and I don’t know why. But I gave him my full attention. You went on for about seven to eight to 10 minutes. And then more seafarers joined him. And they started to complain about it. And went down for what 20 To 25 good minutes. And then the magic happened. You know what he said to me? He said, Thank you for listening. Nobody listens. No, he said. And I still remember he said, I don’t expect you to solve any of these problems. I know you didn’t come here to do this. But you listen, nobody listens. Rob, that was very powerful. And you know what happened after that? He said, Come, I’ll show you how I lower the lifeboat is and he spoke with passion. He told me everything about the risks involved in lowering a lifeboat that are so far away from what the documented processes have to say yes. One after another experience, I have watched the same pattern repeating you have to become interested in people you have to understand the sources of decision making, which is the unconscious mind. People will tell you amazing things if you just suspend your agenda and submit control for a few minutes and and so the more I read and you gave answers to that not just through books, but to those wonderful semiotics that I could take small pictorials leaflets, which I could take to seafarers which I could take to companies and say, here is a working model to achieve this. To working. Yes. And, and time after time, I experienced that. Oh, yeah, yeah, it sounds simple, but it works. Yep. So, um, I’m not suggesting that I have reached a position where I have you know, I, I understand everything, there’s a long way to go. But


Nippin Anand  15:30

I think understanding the science and art, both of connecting with people is very important is if you want to improve the quality of decisions in your organisation, and people don’t know how to have conversations. No, they don’t understand. And, and so to answer your question, it was success. Through learning, it was dissonance and success both in that in the first place, you hit me with a lot of dissonance, I



was uncomfortable. Because you know, I’ve been a PhD, I’m an auditor, and I now have to go and listen to people doesn’t happen. But time and again, I saw the success. I saw the light in people’s eyes, I saw the welcoming gestures to say, Oh, this man wants to listen, come, let’s sit down. Yes. So I think that’s what gave me the the, the, the success. I mean, that’s what I really enjoy. Now about the psychology of risk.


Rob Long  16:23

is I think it’s interesting, you say that Nippin. In the 20, odd years, I’ve been doing this. I’ve never met anyone who knows how to listen, with the method. Some people are good at listening naturally. They do it intuitively, and they’re quite good at it. They can’t tell you what they’re doing. But they know they’re doing it. But those people are very rare, they’d be less than 1% of the general population. Most of the time, you actually have to be taught how to listen from a disposition of wanting to listen. So you actually have to have an ethic, before you even start that says, this world is not about myself, this world is about a community of others. And you can’t even learn how to listen unless you take that disposition. And particularly in industries that measurement centric, it’s never about the self, it’s always about measuring the other controlling an object or something like that. And so many, many times that people have come to me and I’ve done training programmes on cultural communication. No one knows how to listen, they actually have no method. And so when I learned that very, very early, about 20 years ago, I started writing methods to help people listen, because in some ways, it’s like helping a child ride a bike, they’ve never done it before. How did they start, always small little steps of learning until they can get good at it. And I have found in some of these organisation, it takes years not months, to turn leaders, senior managers, supervisors, into effective listeners. And when they become effective listeners, the culture starts to change. But they need tools and methods for it. So I made them up to help them do that. You could call them guidelines, you could call them prompts of some sort. And there always gets to the stage where there are people simply don’t want to it’s much, much easier, much, much more efficient to just tell someone something and then police it very, very efficient. And that’s what the risk and safety industry does. I give you information, you know, do what you’re told, you’re now policed. It takes longer to learn how to listen. But the longitudinal outcomes, immense, immense.


Nippin Anand  19:11

I hope you enjoyed listening to this podcast as much as I enjoyed chatting with Rob. And I’m sure you would have questions. Because there’s only so much we can cover in 10 to 15 minutes. Please email me or write to us. I’m available on LinkedIn. My email is Nippin.anand@novellus.solutions, and I will do my very best to respond to you. If you would like to learn more about social psychology of risks there are plenty of resources including books, which are free for download. There are many podcasts that we have done there are many articles that we have written and we’d be happy to share them with you. There are a series of courses there are a series of events planned. The first one is coming up in October. which is just about less than a month away from now. And this is a workshop on organisational culture, safety culture if you like and if you’re interested, drop me a line and we’ll see if we can accommodate you although we are nearly full now, but there will be more courses coming up in the next year on accident investigation, leadership, semiotics and social psychology of risk Foundation, which is the basis for every other course that we develop in this area. I hope you enjoyed it. I hope to see you again. Goodbye