Social Psychology of Risk in practice

November 24, 2022



To be alive is to be learning. Listen to this personal journey of a scaffolder, an electrician, a father, and a family man and find out what it means when people experience the joy of learning and a transformation within. Culture, systems, and process improvement follow and flow from the individual.

Further information


SPoR in practice


Travis Stephens  00:00

The understanding that I’m developing, for myself and for others that I have out of school is, is absolutely, I, I couldn’t think of my life without it. It’s it’s changed the way I am with my family, the way I


Travis Stephens  00:19

interact with my wife, my children, my children, in particular, some of the conversations I have with them now. You know, my eldest son is 11 going on, very preteen. And he’s, he’s in that hormonal preteen stage where his experiences are very difficult for him, he, he’s struggling, he’s coming home, and he’s having these emotional meltdowns for I don’t know what, but Spor. And the way particularly the I cue methodology has taught me ways to listen and pick up on those intelligent cues in what he’s saying. It’s not just speaking, you know, Dad speaking to his son, from the front of the car to the back of the car on the way home from school anymore. He can speak, I can listen, or give him that opportunity to speak or pick up on those cues and go, Well, can you tell me more about that mate? You know, and those opportunities are something that prior to commencing spor, or something that would have, I would have missed I absolutely 100% would have missed and these are opportunities with my son, that I would never have the opportunity to get back again. I’d never be able to help him.


Nippin Anand  01:41

Hello, and welcome to another episode of embracing differences with me Nippin Anand. embracing differences is a podcast series aimed at understanding different perspectives about risk management, often different ways of looking at risk and risk management, whether it’s human factors engineering, systems thinking, safety, management, anthropology, religion, mythology, psychology, sociology, humanities, business studies, you name it, they will all lead to different understanding about risk. The engineering world is contended that we should work towards designing failsafe systems. But for someone with a business hat on this would mean a cost to a system thinker in every failsafe design, we are only transferring the risk from one part of the system to another, or even from one form of risk to another. So you may be able to reduce physical harm by introducing a physical barrier. But you may end up with emotional or psychological harm to people because they become risk averse. So what is the best choice to make? The starting point is to stop criticising and start appreciating different pathways to managing risk. And then picking up the one that suits your needs is the appreciation of different viewpoints that is central to the idea of embracing differences. I must admit, it’s a hard thing to understand very hard indeed. And precisely the purpose of this podcast. So the podcast is available on Spotify, Apple pod bean, Google podcast and anchor. And I’m the host of this podcast and the founder of novellas, Nippin, Anand, ak novellus. We are all about understanding and improving organisational culture within the framework of language. We call it social psychology of risk. Which means what does our language tell us about the quality of our decisions and the culture of our organisation? So that’s really where we are mostly interested? How can we improve our culture and make reflective decision habit? That’s the question we want to ask. And now some people call it safety culture. I like to use the word organisational culture because it is a lot more holistic in nature. I want you to also check out our Icue method, which is a conversational way of sense making and learning club events. The details of Icue method are available on our website novellus.solutions. We also do taster sessions every fortnight to bring people from different parts of the world together. It’s an hourly session, which tends to be a lot informal and fun, I would invite you to attend one of those sessions if you want to know more about our Icue method. Now here’s a couple of special announcement to make before we start talking about the podcast today, which is the next Icue coaching series starts on the 26th of January. It’s a nine week programme, where we meet on an hourly basis every week as a small group of about six to eight people. If you’d like to book to this course or want to know more about it please get in touch. The next Icue workshop in person is scheduled in London on the 23rd and 24th of February. We have already filled half of the spaces. So if you would like to book now is the time details are again on the wellness dot solutions, slash events. Now let’s talk about today’s podcast. This podcast is the personal journey of Travis Stevens, an electrician, and a scaffolder by trade who embarked on a journey to explore what social psychology of risk is all about. In this podcast, we will explore the inner transformation within Travis as a result of his learning journey. What did he experience and how has it changed him as a person. I put that code at the beginning to show how change is felt, how it is lived, and what it means. Change often starts at individual level. Change does not see the boundary between what you do at a personal level, and how you relate with others in your profession. And this is certainly not the first time I’m hearing this. Of course, we will hear more about this and other things as we listened to Travis his personal journey into learning. You will hear the term SPoR in this podcast quite a lot. Let me just unpack that jargon for you. It actually means social psychology of risk, which is how we as human beings make decisions under social influence. I hope you enjoy this podcast and gives you some inspiration and flavour for learning.


Nippin Anand  06:23

Travis, thank you for joining this, I think the starting point would be just to say, yeah, maybe a light introduction, Travis, you know who you are. Yeah.


Travis Stephens  06:40

Yeah, so I’m currently working as a safety quality manager by title obviously, the role in reality extends a little bit beyond that. Working for a crane company in in Perth in Western Australia. We specialise in more high risk construction works than actual crane hire, we we specialise in mostly precast concrete installation work. My, my, my background in safety isn’t the typical academic background. I commenced my career After leaving school after finishing year 10. and started my apprenticeship as an electrician completed that I’ve worked in that field for quite a number of years. I found myself not challenged enough and wanted to reach out and I, I tried a few things. I’ve I’ve worked as a plant operator, I’ve I’ve worked in rigging, I’ve worked as a scaffold, er and I did find the challenges within those high risk trades quite interesting. And certainly the people you work with, that the teamwork became so much more important. So you know, from from electrical, through to the the other known high risk licence type trades, as they’d be known in, in Australia.


Travis Stephens  08:15

Yeah, so I had an injury about 15 years ago, where I fractured my lower spine and could be treated, but it would limit me permanently, some of the treatment options. So my employer at the time, was actually able and helped me into retraining into a new field and because of my background, as nominated safety rep and very direct team member with the people in the field actually started my certificate in safety and have been working in that field predominantly ever since. Geez, I’d say I’m a lot too think as as far as the social psychology of risk is concerned, I found there wasn’t there was there was a disconnect for me, between the company’s values, my values in the way safety is known to be done or enacted or, you know, safety as an embodied thing that you do on site where I I felt a very major disconnect with that myself. And I was reading the safety risk blogs for quite some time, and particularly the works of of Robert long and it connected to me and I felt Here’s the blog that I have, he knows what’s going on here. This, he’s he’s talking about that bit that I’m missing. But you know what he uses a lot of big words, I don’t really know what he’s on about. And, yeah, I, I started training with the Centre for Leadership and Learning and risk about two years ago. So I’m quite quite new to the journey myself. But since since commencing, I’ve found ways that it comes to me now. There, the disconnect, I felt was very much a real thing. And I’m I’m learning now how to understand what that disconnect actually means, where it stems from. I think the only thing when you when you start spor, it’s very challenging to begin with. But, and certainly I’ve seen it worse for some than others. I’ve, I’ve conducted some of these sessions, and the workshops have, I’m finding myself going back to the same one and taking something away from it every time. It’s the communications, the feedback from others and the conversations and, and hearing all those different perspectives. Every single time I take something more away from it. I know, for myself, it’s a challenge. And that’s one of those things in life I’ve always been chasing. And that’s amazing for me something I really enjoy every time. You know, for every comment that Rob makes, he’ll, he’ll throw out five different opportunities for more learning with every one of those comments. Here’s, here’s a reading read more about this. Here’s something else. And I know a lot of people could. And I know a lot of people do. I’ve seen comments on LinkedIn, and so forth, where becomes quite toxic, and it’s all academic, it’s all academic, it’s all academic. And I find myself the more I learn, the more I’m able to articulate. And, yes, it’s toxic. And yes, it’s academic, to a great extent, but a lot of the journey is actually felt and experienced, which is for any person that’s got children, that’s the way they tried to teach their children, let’s go out, let’s go play. Let’s let’s be involved in the world. And those sorts of things that sort of experiences of the only way to learn, it’s very much encouraged by the philosophy of spor, the underlying philosophy of spor is very heavily experiential. So for anyone that actually wanted to undertake the journey, it doesn’t need to be academic, if you want to, and you want to reach out for more you can, but you don’t need to, it’s not a necessity. You need to be with these people, you need to experience those moments. And what you take away from him is what you’re open to that I think I’ve the journey for me, isn’t just about my role. It’s not about my work, it’s about me. And the understanding that I’m developing, for myself and for others, that I there of spor, is is absolutely I I couldn’t think of my life without it. It’s it’s changed the way I am with my family, the way I interact with my wife, my children, my children, in particular, some of the conversations I have with them now that, you know, my eldest son is 11 going on, very preteen. And he’s he’s in that hormonal preteen stage where he’s experiences a very difficult for him, he, he’s struggling, he’s coming home, and he’s having these emotional meltdowns for I don’t know what but Spor. And the way particularly the IQ methodology has taught me ways to listen and pick up on those intelligent cues in what he’s saying. It’s not just speaking, you know, Dad speaking to his son, from the front of the car to the back of the car on the way home from school anymore. He can speak I can listen or give him that opportunity to speak or pick up on those cues and go Well can you tell me more about that mate in and those opportunities are something that prior to commencing spor as something that would have I would have missed I absolutely 100% would have missed and these are opportunities with my son that I would never have the opportunity to get back again. I’d never be able to help him. It never helped him through some of the moments that I’m now helping him with moments of bullying and and difficulties at school. had a bad day, simple, simple little things. And small has provided me the tools to do that. And obviously, in the workplace, it’s, it’s a deliverance. It’s an awakening


Travis Stephens  15:21

look like you’re thinking,


Nippin Anand  15:23

I don’t know what to say, I just want to listen to you. I just feel that talking what I’m experiencing right now. You’re talking precisely what I’m going through. And it’s so good to see somebody on the other side. You know, I see so much resonance here. You know, trimester. Yeah. I mean, I don’t even know what question to ask, because you’ve given me so much in the last few minutes, just just outed game all. I just wanted to, you know, you talked a few times, as we started in the beginning. And you said, you did not feel challenged enough in your previous life, which is the core spor. You also said that? It was, yeah. So it all, you know. So now, when you start to, you know, because reflection is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? Now, if you look back at your past life now, and you you mentioned, you use the word disconnect a couple of times, I would like to hear a little bit more about that side, where you see the disconnect, when you look back? And where you thought it was you were not being challenged?



Can you talk a little bit more about that, before we come to your personal life, which I think is fascinating also to talk about?


Travis Stephens  16:55

The disconnect for me, was what I would consider now to be largely philosophical. The, my, I’m quite an existential person. Oh, yeah, it’s yeah, the the disconnect is, is largely largely philosophical. You trying to think of how to put this in sort of like a common, a moment that would probably be appreciated by, by anyone that’s worked on a construction site is you go on, before you get to the job, you sit down, you do all the inductions, the paperwork, and it’s all a matter of process, you’ve got these generic safe work method statements, you know, for myself, and for my team, we have to have those by law, not a problem, we can achieve that by law. But in my prior life, these were, here’s a generic standard piece of paper, written by someone that hadn’t seen the job written from an office, and you get this piece of paper, and you go, and that’s this person in an office that hasn’t even seen the job that you’re working on, or, in a lot of cases even undertaken the same work. They don’t know the nuances exactly of what goes on. But they’re writing this essay. So you know, some of these things are 20 Plus pages long. And that’s not uncommon. People in that role, aren’t interested in reading, a lot of people in the construction industry have literacy issues, for example. But the majority are just good with their hands. They want to work, they don’t go to work to read. So these documents the way they were being presented, create a very major disconnect. I assist the, the administration of these in my company now. And I know and I’m very conscious of that. I go to I’d never put my name to the safe work method statement. If I haven’t been to the job. If I haven’t done the job. If I haven’t done the job myself, and I haven’t been to visit. I get in one of our team members who has I get them in anyway, that’s the way it needs to be done. The people involved need to be involved. It’s the way the legislation works or is intended and for any fluff. Anyone with these accreditations and these pieces of paper that say we are a wonderful safety system, if they were actually ordered to truly to the requirements of those things, they’d be in for a rude awakening that the way the documentation is presented, so much involvement, put a picture in it. You can say so much with that, that picture. You know, I’ll take a snippet of some details of how to connect a precast panel to a precast panel here. is the corner bracket detail, here’s the bolts you use. That’s the actual information they need to do the work safely. The crane operator that’s been pulling those levers for 20 years, doesn’t need that safe work method statement to tell him how to operate the crane. He knows he’s done that he feels that and what he intuitively does without thinking on a daily basis, all day, every day, that paper changes nothing to that man or woman who whoever it may be changes absolutely nothing. And the rigours that go along the same day know, if I run that chain around here, I’ve got the right sling length, I’ve got all my angles, right, I know that. And if I do it here in here, it’s going to lift up level, most of the time, they’re pretty close to being on the money. If they’re not, they put it down, adjust it. Again, these aren’t things that are necessarily documented. But they’re the reality of how the work has been done safely. It’s intuitive. That’s, you know, one of the best things we do with our crew these days, we get a new worker, regardless of their experience, not concerned about how many years they’ve been working for, we assume they’re new to the industry. We put them out there with a team of people that work together. They’ve got that collective coherence, they, they understand the work, they understand how it needs to be done. They know how our customers want it done. And they go about the work and the new person, just through experiencing the work with those people. They they have an opportunity to retain that tacit knowledge, and gain the same intuitions. And again, that shared experience that collective coherence takes the whole team to the next level. It’s it’s not something that’s appreciated. It’s not something that’s acknowledged because it’s not on paper, it can’t be achieved, with that paperwork at the start of the job, but so often. So often will attend to a project, before we get through the door, our office would have had countless emails, document preparation, sending it back and forth, the amount of times I get told, on a you need to put this in your swims. No, by law, I need to make that safe work method statement understandable to the people that that are using it. I can put as much as you want in it. But the more you tell me how to change the way that my team understands it. And the way that the way we present our information to our team, the more you tell me to change that, the less they understand it, you are now taking ownership of it. I want to make sure my team so I can come across perhaps as argumentative, but it’s not the case, I actually value our team, I value their understanding. And I will refuse and argue to do something that I find trivial for the sake of paperwork, if it doesn’t actually contribute anything to my team safety. precast panels kill people. It’s quite that simple. Cranes kill people, falling objects, et cetera, et cetera, everything we do. I don’t I can’t play the traffic light game, I can’t do use this, the risk matrix, no matter how subjective you are. If the final outcome in whichever Risk Matrix use if the final outcome is going to be a fatality or potentially a fatality, I can’t turn it green. The best I can do is make sure it’s understood by the people involved is many documented battles you have is not going to achieve it. And that that the focus on the documentation, the battles of trivial rules on site, you know, people getting kicked off site for smoking in a knot. They’re not in the designated area. No, but they’re in there in the middle of a road. Why would you kick that person off the site, why penalise them why brutalise them for breaking a rule? When there is no risk, there is no risk to other than their own. You know, their own lungs. That’s their choice. That’s the choice people make people choose risk all the time. I choose risk when I jump in the car and go to work in the morning. But I do it every day. And I do it without thinking and I do it with strangely enough without a piece of paper to tell me how to get to work and drive a car. But that vehicle can kill me. I could kill myself I could kill others. Without that piece of paper, I can still do it. And speaking of the intuitive perception, one of the ways we discuss the one brain three minds to our team is the slow medium and fast brain speeds. We talk About the learner driver, the person that’s new to the new toy vehicle, not really sure what they’re doing, they’re learning that they’re learning the actions, they’re learning the rules, they’re, they’re learning so much, they’re slow, they’re slow, rational brain. Like any learning, it takes time, they develop those habits, they gain more experience. And, you know, they get their plates, they get a couple of years under their belt, you know, a manual car clutch accelerator movements, when to break when to slow down. When you see the lights or the intersection ahead, you see other cars on the road, you start to notice them more, you slow down, and you’re into that heuristic sort of perspective. And then, like me, I’ve been driving for years, I get in my car at the morning, and I can remember getting in it. And I remember getting out of it. But I get to work. And don’t remember any decision I made on that journey. And when when you’ve got that same crane operator, who’s been flicking the levers for 20 years, he isn’t thinking, he’s at work, he’s got in the crane, he drove it to his job, and he’s doing his thing. And he will remember picking up the load. And he will remember putting it down. He won’t remember how he got it there. And no amount of paperwork is going to change that. And this is where


Travis Stephens  26:27

Wes for actually takes on a different enlightenment. It accepts that, it accepts that that that thought process as as existent, which typical safety processes don’t. And that’s, that is where the disconnect lies, is denying humans as being human. They’re not robots stem certainly has a place in spor accepts that. But as a supplement to what is actually happening. When you when you look at a traditional orthodox safety system, through the lens of Spor, there’s nothing in there that says that’s broken, it’s there’s no value in that there’s no value. Yeah, it was thrown out all these pages, and nothing in there that does that. But what it does do is actually look through, look at it through a critical lens. You can look at those same documents and go, Well, what is the value of this? What’s the efficacy of this particular process? Well, you know what, it doesn’t actually contribute any value. But here we are spending countless hours managing the process. Well, can we improve the process? Can we improve the way we do this? Skip that again. You know what, it’s not actually in the long run, going to do anything, the trade offs have any great benefit, either or they can considerably worse. Toss it. And that’s, that’s all suppose doing. It’s not saying to throw everything out. It’s just to look at it with a critical eye. If it doesn’t actually help people, if it doesn’t help you care for your team, the people you care for your clients care for anyone, the environment. If it doesn’t help get rid of it. It’s quite that simple. But what it does do in the counter to that is it does provide you tools that when you do go, you know what that doesn’t work, I’m going to throw it out. It gives you a counter tool that you can use to actually achieve the goal of helping and caring. The the process of spor is very much inherently continuous learning, continuous improvement. Any quality system in the world should take away from spor. And I use the word quality very intentionally because if you read a lot of the feedback and and social media platforms, your LinkedIn and so forth, it’s very much spor is anti safety or spor safety score, safety, always associated. It’s not about safety. It’s about risk. Those quality processes, those business decisions. They’re all part of it. You know that the competing values framework is an amazing business tool. It’s not about safety as it’s not about quality. It’s about business. It’s a holistic approach. And that’s what spor delivers. takes so many valuable aspects. So It’s so much knowledge. And you know, something like the competing values framework, you can sit there and and learn the simple processes that, you know, spor Can, can deliver. And it’s, you know, Rob has included aspects of it in so many of his books. But at the same time, it’s a pathway, go and read Cameron and Quinn, go and read that one, we’re opening the door, we’ll touch on that for you. If you want to learn more, go and learn more. And that’s where the, the academic aspect is, you can go and experience these workshops. And I know you deliver these workshops, yourself Nippin. So giving those people the opportunity to come and actually be in the room share experiences, share stories, it’s amazing, there’s nothing like it. But then if you walk out of that room and go, I want to learn more. Okay, here you go. Here’s all the here’s all the references that were considered when, when this book was written, here are some of the references that we read that that, you know, brought us to this opinion, we formed our opinions with this information by these people. Here it is, you know, this is information freely available. In most cases, as well. Almost all of the small body of knowledge is freely available, most of the books that are are in that library are free, it doesn’t, you download it, you read it, it’s very simple, doesn’t cost you anything other than your time, or your interest. If it doesn’t pique your interest, that’s fine. Don’t read it read something else. But there’s so many different pathways. I think the one thing that that information being freely available, doesn’t have that is of benefit. And I know certainly a benefit to me is a direct link to the other people that are on the same learning journey. And certainly the the mentors that are available. Any person that I’ve spoken to, and I’ll make a phone call guide Hey, really sorry. I saw your your name in that email thread and grabbed your number off your email signature. Hey, just wanted to talk to you about spor about this particular item looks like you know a little bit about it if you’ve experienced it. Oh yeah, no worries, every single person I’ve spoken to has taken the time to have that call. And they will give you as much time as they want. They understand I was there I was on a journey just like you and I wasn’t too sure about that either. Or you know or this or that whatever it may be what everyone adopts and takes in from that it varies to their own knowledge their own experiences what’s relevant to them at the time I know I’ve read so many things twice I read it I worked through it the first time I went this is rubbish What a waste of time in one area the other but you know that’s cool later on you know I remember of I’ve heard this rings a bell or there’s something there’s something in the back of my mind now I go away read it again. And I approach it through a different lens a different understanding and go wow, now I get it two feet first jump in that hole and start learning about it. You hit that roadblock one phone call to any of the people that that steady wins for any single one of these people will help you they will take the time it’s just a matter of reaching out so I’m gonna need a drink



raising absolutely amazing thank you i How would you summarise spor in a few words in a very few words


Travis Stephens  34:22

life SpoR is life. It it’s not it’s not life. It’s living. Spor or Spor is is living. It’s been it’s it’s learning is the journey.


Nippin Anand  34:41

Travis this has been such a wonderful conversation it will stay with me forever. What did you think? For me some of the key takeaways from this podcast. We’re social psychology of risk sounds challenging because it challenges our thinking and our learning is unka covering what we do not know, nothing changes until there is change within. And when this change is felt, you take it everywhere with you. It’s not just about work, it’s how you relate to the world around you, your friends can feel it, your family can see it. And eventually you become convinced that change has come to you. And that is precisely the example that Travis cares about. How his his his interaction with his family with his children has changed so much. The other thing I find interesting is that the emphasis of all learning is on practice and doing we’re not designed to think and reflect, we are designed to, to action. We are an action oriented species. So social psychology of risk actually gives you the practical tools, not just to think differently, but to do things differently. We’re also talking about and dealing with experienced professionals at work, people who have been doing things in a certain way for many, many years. These are crane operators, ship captains, doctors, nurses, pilots, surgeons, plumbers, electricians, and so on. What are we going to achieve from strengthening of our processes and systems, when most of the decisions are made from their unconscious mind, we really have to listen. Or we have to cultivate the habit of listening to the unconscious mind of people, if we want to understand how they make decisions. And if we ignore the unconscious mind, the automatic mind, the habits, the experiential nature of being human, we are stuck with the same vocabulary and the same mindset, which is an accident happens because somebody was not following the processes. Somebody was being complacent, being lazy. So it’s their fault, they should pay more attention to it. Or maybe we should tweak the procedures and the systems and guess what we are doing then we just tightening processes and systems, nothing changes at the level of the individual. Absolutely nothing. I leave you with those thoughts.



Do you have any questions, any feedback, any comments, any criticism, you can always write to us? You can write to me personally, at support@novellus.solutions. You can also leave a message for us on our website www.novellus.solutions. You can email me nippin.anand@novellus.solutions and you can find me on LinkedIn. Until then, have a good day.