Monday, February 20, 2012

Paradigm Paralysis – Improving Performance

A recent safety article used the phrase Paradigm Paralysis, complaining about the tendency we all have trying to use old approaches to solve current problems. This reminded me of my brother-in-law, Tom, talking about his career in the armed forces. Tom’s observation was military leadership’s oft used approach of using the same tactics for the next war that they used in the last war. And this just doesn’t lead to optimum performance; in war – or in safety.

Our safety profession history began in 1911 with a disastrous, 100+ life ending tragedy at a New York garment manufacturing sweat shop. Over the ensuing years “we” have experienced all kinds of research, regulations, techniques, technologies, leadership, education, training and the like. Much of this (but not all) has moved us to better downstream indicator safety performance.

As I talk with past safety generation people there is often a great reluctance to try new safety concepts that are outside of their experience comfort zones, i.e., Paradigm Paralysis. Certainly the foundational approaches that have been developed in the past 100 years still apply. And yet, this decade’s safety performance plateau is not satisfactory. We must relentlessly pursue better techniques and tools to eliminate the possibility/probability of injuries/incidents.

Our current war on injuries and incidents has a new generation with its new cultures, different workplaces and a myriad of other differences from what my generation experienced. We must be open to considering and trying new approaches that can help us win the important safety battles that face us now and in the future.

The Doc

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