Hey, it’s Andrew, and this is Safety on Tap.
Since you’re listening in, you must be a leader wanting to grow yourself and drastically improve health and safety along the way. Welcome to you, you’re in the right place. If this is your first time listening in, thanks for joining us and well done for trying something different to improve! And of course, welcome back to all of you wonderful regular listeners.
Many of you will know Professor Erik Hollnagel. Erik said he doesn’t like long introductions, so I’ll do it in the intro here before the actual interview. Erik is Senior Professor of Patient Safety at the University of Jönköping, Sweden. Erik is also Adjunct Professor at Central Queensland University (Australia), Visiting Professorial Fellow, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at Macquarie University (Australia), Visiting Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Study of the Technische Universitat München (Germany), and Professor Emeritus at the Department of Computer and Information Science (IDA) at Linköping University (LIU), Sweden.
You may have heard of Erik from his prolific writing, with well knows books including Safety I and Safety II, the Past and Future of Safety Management, and Resilience Engineering, Concepts, and Precepts.
People have said to me before, that I am a Safety-II or new view kind of person. I found that strange, given I am fairly agnostic about my work. That makes much more sense when you know that what I bring you, which reflects how I am thinking about the world, is fuelled by a desire to improve performance, in whatever way possible. So if that’s hearing from Australia’s largest industry representative body CEO, so be it. If that’s hearing from a frontline researcher, if that’s hearing from a conflict coach, or a futurist, or a not-for-profit founder, so be it. And thus we have Safety II and Erik Hollnagel.
He is here not because I am a believer, but as Erik so simply tell us, because it makes sense.

Here’s Erik:

Now….this workshop is Brisbane we mentioned. Time-limited from when this podcast comes out, its on 24-26 Feb, with two options for a short masterclass and then the full workshop. This is a rare workshop in Australia, not just because it will be a great interactive workshop with Erik, but because it will be interspersed with industry leaders just like you talking about their experiences putting Safety II into practice. Sleeves rolled up, stories of real implementation, of success, of failure, and of plenty of lessons to learn.
This event is being hosted by Forge Works, led by a friend of the show and previous guest Dave Provan. I will be there, I would love to see you there too. Get your tickets at https://forgeworks.com
Here’s my three takeaways from that chat with Erik Hollnagel:
Takeaway #1: Spend some time making sense of things, to yourself. This has driven Erik for at least 42 years. Ask whether all the things you think and do, make sense to you. If they do, why do they make sense? If they don’t, how did you get there, and how could you search for sense? One way to do this practically is to imagine you had to make the case of a certain act or thought. Someone challenges you to an argument. State your case, help it make sense out loud. Why not have a discussion like this in your team? Why do we do it this way? What do we think about this or that? Sure, writing’s like Erik’s can help, but you can discover lots from your own head or your own team.
Takeaway #2: Think about how you present your ideas. We uncovered a number of things about the way Safety I and Safety II is communicated, some of which work well and which could be better. The marriage metaphor for learning from things going well is a perfect example. Alongside metaphor, stories work well, they engage other people’s brains in ways that no facts or data ever could. Using visuals, avoiding binary language, the list goes on. HOW you convey your message is arguably more important than WHAT you convey.
Takeaway #3: What if we thought about safety as one of many things going well. If we engage in the idea that we can be success-enablers, we can’t help but create not just safety but a bunch of other positive outcomes for the people and organisations we serve. You have permission to deliver more than just safety outcomes, but only you can take up the opportunity to do so.
Thanks so much for listening. Until next time, what’s the one thing you’ll do to take positive, effective or rewarding action, to grow yourself, and drastically improve health and safety along the way? Seeya!