Why transdisciplinary thinking is essential to learning? An eight part series with Dr Robert Long on culture and learning (4/8)

June 29, 2023



The risk and safety industry predominantly approaches human being as a rational being and decision making as a rational, calculative, brain-centric exercise. In this podcast, Dr Rob Long and Dr Nippin Anand discuss the need for transdisciplinary thinking to understand how we as human beings make decisions. Do you want to learn more about Social Psychology of Risk? Join us at Stavanger. For more details visit novellus.solutions/events

Further information



Rob Long, Nippin Anand


Nippin Anand  00:00

Hello and welcome to embracing differences with me Nippin Anand, founder of novellus, a podcast series dedicated to understanding different perspectives about how we as human beings, or rather, social beings make decisions. The podcast series draws from different disciplines including religion, mythology, sociology, anthropology, social psychology, biology, neurosciences and stem, making it truly transdisciplinary meaning transporting her rather travelling across disciplines. The idea is not to claim that one method or discipline is superior to the other, but to hold competing disciplines, competing values, diverse perspectives, intention. And when that happens, we create space for doubt and reflection. The idea is to enjoy travelling, and the ambiguity that comes with it. Experiencing dissonance discomfort, how else do we learn?


Nippin Anand  01:12

This is a podcast about understanding culture, safety, culture, and how we as human beings learn with Dr. Robert long. In this podcast, we ask the question, why transdisciplinary thinking is essential to learning. Now, if you’re not familiar with the term transdisciplinary, thinking, what that actually means is trying to understand human decision making, trying to understand the phenomenon around us by taking different disciplines in account, not necessarily restricting ourselves to one discipline alone. And the risk and safety industry predominantly approaches human being as a rational being and decision making as a rational calculated, brain centric exercise. So what we discussed in this podcast, together with Dr. Robert long is the need for taking a more holistic approach, a more transdisciplinary approach to understanding how human beings actually make decisions.


Rob Long  02:13

Didn’t matter what I did, I could not pass those subjects maths and science. And I had a teacher come to me and say, Well, you just have to keep repeating that year. So repeat another year until you can pass Maths and Science. And it I my head could not get around those subjects. And I had a wonderful talk to my father. And so we said, can we find a school that doesn’t teach maths and science. And we found a school that would allow me to not do those two subjects. And so I had all my friends who loved maths and love science. And I, my head has never got around it. And the moment I moved to this school where I didn’t have to do that. I started going like this, I had success. I had understanding, I could comprehend it. And I succeeded, like you could not believe. But I moved from this compulsion is no one is intelligent unless they understand maths. Well, guess what? There are other forms of intelligence. You know, I went today to a temple to a man who did a whole range of things, which many people would not understand. And I didn’t even understand. But just because I don’t understand doesn’t mean that guy is not intelligent. He’s intelligent in what he knows. So we have to stop this judgement that says, oh, only the engineers intelligent. Only the doctor is intelligent. Only the it shouldn’t work that way. Why do we not have faith and trust in multiple disciplines? In particularly things like leadership and risk and safety? Are No no, we have to go to some guy who’s got an MBA a business degree, okay. But we can’t talk to a nurse or a community worker, or a prison worker or a social worker, or an aged care worker, we don’t talk to them. So we don’t validate that form of intelligence. And so what we do is we got this hierarchy of intelligence. So obviously the priest I saw today is complete idiot because he touches things and whatever and says, I will this will give you hope. But if I go to a psychiatry First who’s got qualifications, he doesn’t give me a touch and hope. He pulls out a script and gives me a drunk for that hope. And so I’ve got to take Maga, Don, or whatever it is, and then my, my, I’ll get a new form of hope. What is the difference between the both? All we we attribute intelligence to the psychiatrist? But the priest is an idiot. What’s that about? And but we do exactly the same in risk and safety. And we can do it with a comparing a lawyer to a counsellor. But we do it though. And I, to me, I find that depressing, I find it quite depressing that, and I use it in my writings, I use the word trans disciplinary, as opposed to mono disciplinary. And so I have a very good friend, Dr. Craig Ashurst. He’s absolutely brilliant, he could get 15 Different disciplines in this room. And we could have one who might be a PhD in paediatric science with children or whatever. One could be a scholar in accounting, this person could be a teacher in nursing. And he works with all these people to try and create a level playing field of validation of respect. And it starts with listening. And it starts with doubt. But the moment you get any hierarchy of, oh, well, this professor in paediatrics, is more intelligent than the priest, then you devalue that form of intelligence. And you say, Ah, there’s only one intelligence, it’s this one. It’s rational intelligence that works according to some Western plan. The more we do that, the less the risk and safety industry will learn about culture and why people do what they do, and will keep being mystified because we think every time some worker does something, we don’t understand what they do. We’re using a rational lens to try and understand. And the decision was not made on rationality, the decision was made on faith. That’s her, this Seafarer who runs through some ritual of protecting themselves against the risk. That’s a faith decision, not a rational decision. Regardless of the huge risk assessment you did and signed all those pages and documents. That’s not how that decision, but we don’t get that we’re stuck in his mono disciplinary, this form of intelligence is better than that form of your terms. It’s just incredible. There is a hierarchy of intelligence in the industry. And I find it upsetting. But that’s why I didn’t go on LinkedIn. I’ve the prejudice that I get on LinkedIn by people who are so keen to call you an idiot. Because you said the word faith, we said the word myth was said the word ritual standing, standing. Do you get that? Do you get? Do you get name and calling and you’re somehow less intelligent? Because you’re using language? They don’t like do you get that?


Nippin Anand  08:35

See the my, I think I’ve come to live with it. In my, in my 18 years of life in the West, been called many, many things, many different things. So it’s interesting, Rob, because I walked that same same road every evening. Near my house, sometimes it’s pitch dark, and nobody sees my colour. And sometimes it’s broad daylight, you know, as it is in the highlighted days. So there are days when even the most beautiful girl who’s passing by will greet you. Because there’s nothing to see except a man walking in the dark. And then there are days when you know, you’re fully lit up and you show all your colours. So when your colours are visible to others, they obviously don’t take you seriously. No, no. And when there is dark, obviously, there is no judgement at all. So the point I’m trying to make is this that once you go through all those experiences, these things become very secondary. It doesn’t bother me. What do you think about it? So


Rob Long  09:42

yeah, I don’t have a lot of time for certain mentalities like that, though, that particularly in the area of, of social psychology, we study so much discrimination and prejudice. They’re the foundations of trying to To understand why people do stuff, and I look at in my country, you know, we’ve got, we’ve got the longest continuous culture in the world 65,000 years or more continuous indigenous culture. And they still have no say. And our country at the moment in Australia is fighting about whether we will even allow them to give advice to executive government.


Nippin Anand  10:34

Yeah, yeah. And I just go, I mean, we can talk about that. And my experience with education in, in where I live in the UK. Yeah. And what my big girl has been through, yes, but one of the primary purposes of what I do is to give my children a fair life. Yes. And that’s, that’s what I care about. Somebody asked me, What’s the purpose of what you do? The purpose of what I do is to is to give my children that live that it’s okay to be yourself? Yes. Because a lot of times, it’s not okay, just to be yourself and speak your heart out. This way. I have a lot of respect for you, because you speak your heart out,


Rob Long  11:09

upset a lot of people. And I don’t, I have, you know, I have these funny projects. And I have no delight in upsetting anyone. But if you ask me a question, I will respond to the question. And I’ll tell you how I think I just don’t talk like an engineer or regulator. It’s not. How can I be something? I’m not? Yeah, the year


Nippin Anand  11:37

was 2015. And this is much, much before our recent interaction when I wrote to you and I said, I read your book. In fact, it was the downloaded copy of the book I wrote, read, and I, it was for the love of Xero. And I wrote to you and I wrote to you, because I’m particularly concerned about how the industry understand the whole concept of of zero. And that’s all I wrote. I said, thank you very much. And I still have that email. And I sent it to you a few few days ago. Yeah. And you sent me four books.


Rob Long  12:12

Yeah. Remember, I wrapped them up and just sent? Yes, you did.


Nippin Anand  12:15

And forget about the partition or who you were. Yeah. Publishing cost of the book. Forget about the publishing cost of the book. Those four books, travel, delivery, cost of sending those books, it from Australia, to the UK would be at least $40 or 40 pounds, whatever.


Rob Long  12:35

Yeah. 40 pounds. Yeah.


Nippin Anand  12:38

And so that was 2015. Yeah. So and then we met a year and a half ago. And you have good lawn? Yes, you have given me and you have given me like. So I mean, I I say to you all the time, there’s only three people I’ve met in my life who have been given me the unconditional love, my wife, my father in law, and you and I genuinely I have not met a person who is more giving, and have not met a person who is so misunderstood. And I struggled to understand why


Rob Long  13:13

the industry, the industry is yes, I think that I think that is a clash. I look, I stopped worrying about it, but some very, very nasty things people will say. And, you know, it’s like, I spoke to someone the other day, who was criticising something about mythology. And I said, from a cultural point of view, have you studied anything mythology? And their answer was no, I just don’t get it. So you’ve done nothing on mythology. You have no background in religion, you have no study of faith, you have no study of theology. But you’re happy to stand and say, You’re an idiot. And this is what the industry creates in this mono, very blinkered view. And all I often hoped for is diversity. All I’m saying is, I’m not saying that your engineering is of no value. I’m not saying that at all. I find it annoying because I don’t understand it. But I don’t say it’s of no value. Why do you turn around and say, this language, this discussion, this form of intelligence has no place in risk and safety and that’s what you get


Nippin Anand  14:41

wrong. Part of the problem is that I go back to the Maslow’s kind of thinking, which is that if if, if all you have is a hammer, the nail is the only problem that changes and I think every consultant today or a lot of consultoria it’s It’s too far, generalising. But a lot of consultants today have this idea that here’s the solution that I can offer. So this is the only problem that you might have. Yes. And I think in some ways, what sport does on social psychology of risk and IQ and everything that we are you do is that you don’t offer solutions. What you offer is a critical approach to life, which is critical thinking. I don’t care what solutions might come out. But even if you look at the IQ method, what is it? It is basically the ability to ask open ended questions. So you could bring in STEM, you can bring in, bring in anthropology, you can bring in neurology, you can make religion, anything, because it depends on you. But you must have disability to be able to understand the liquidity of the problem. Yes. And I think that is the uniqueness of what you do.


Rob Long  15:56

But we don’t, you know, we don’t fix stuff. We don’t we think we do. We project we do, we predict we do. I don’t know how any human being can live in this life, and think that actually controlling things you and I, we don’t know. And this is where doubts terribly important. And the ability to accept doubt, is critical to resilience and learning. So I have no assumptions about what will happen tonight. I may expect something, but I won’t be disappointed if they don’t happen. And if we had fire alarms right now, and the fire alarm went off, we have to close this down and jump off and the fire brigade came and everything like that. The ability move with to move with that interruption, is the foundation of resilience. Those who sit there and protest, oh, I got interrupted, I had these plans put forward. Now the fire brigades come and there’s the fire, some silly person, you know, left their blanket on and a fire started on the seventh storey all this protest is based upon a model of life, which says, Everything must be certain everything is known. We don’t live by faith. And yet the reality is, we live the opposite like that.


Nippin Anand  17:27

Indeed, indeed, as we walk down to the reception, we just made a request, could we get a room to have to do? We didn’t know where we are, we’ll be sitting somewhere in the background of noise Correct? Or traffic or whatever. That’s a swimming pool. So this whole idea that, you know, be prepared for what lies ahead. Yes. Because who knows what the future is? Yeah, I think it sets in not just resilience, but also humility in you. And I think very few people really appreciate what humility embodied humility, if you want to put it this way. I think it’s, I get


Rob Long  18:03

a bit embarrassed by that. But, but I was going to say, one of the things I’ve discovered here in India is, is the acceptance of an Australian would would drive the streets are in Chennai, and go, this is mayhem. This is complete disorder. And human beings seem to indicate this is where faith comes in. But they don’t want disorder. And yet, we drove around the streets today and may no longer Wow. And then I said to my friend, oh, we’re going to jump into took took and just go around. And nice thing we might get killed in that took took Well, I can’t believe that nearly every person I saw on the road today was driving by faith and the whole


Nippin Anand  19:04

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 at novella storage solutions. You can also leave a message for us on our website, the novellus.solutions. You can email me personally at Nippin.anand@novellus.solutions and you can find me on LinkedIn. Until then, have a good day. For those of you who are interested to understand cultural safety, culture and the concept of learning, or rather how we as human beings learn, we have a workshop coming up in Stavanger in Norway, from the fourth to the sixth of October. The the idea of this workshop is to give some practical methods and tools using the framework of social psychology of risk to help people become our I would say invaluable leaders become a little bit more deliberate and strategic about understanding and influencing culture. So you can expect a lot of practical exercises, group work, tools, methods that would actually help you to understand culture. I hope you can join us there is all the details on our website novellus.solutions/events. Please check it out. And we hope you can make it and we would love to have you with us