How can we know what we don’t know? It’s an age old question.  We know that there are things that we don’t know.  Things like options, ideas, collaborations, and futures that we can enable to happen, but we can’t simply make them – we have to enable them to emerge. 

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.

There is lots of talk about AI.  As in, artificial intelligence.  Tech is all the rage, and we are interfacing more and more directly with artificial intelligence – just think about the predictive text on your phone. 

But a much older kind of AI hold huge promise for health and safety practice, if only more people knew about it.  Appreciate Inquiry is the topic of discussion today, and I really enjoyed this conversation with Amanda Clements on what it is, and how it has enabled both of us to be better professionals.  Amanda is a senior health and safety professional in a large road services construction and maintenance business.  She’s quite out of the box, as you will discover. 

Here’s Amanda: 


Amanda mentioned learning teams at the beginning of our chat, as the context for learning about appreciative inquiry.  Learning teams are becoming increasingly popular amongst people like us, as we realise that the long-standing ways of approaching safety aren’t giving us the results that we used to get, or that we want to get. 

My colleague Andy White and I have been helping organisations introduce and facilitate learning  teams, and other kinds of modern learning practices, for quite some time, with lots of success.  The success comes from the right combination of principles (which is knowing why we do something), and practices (which is the who, the what, and the how).  The trouble is that there are PLENTY of people who are really interested and excited about learning teams, for good reason, they can be awesome.  But so few of us actually implement, because making change can be hard, especially without a map.  Andy and I have put our extensive experience into action by starting something new.  It’s called a Case Study Group, and it’s kicking off soon. 

A Learning Teams Case Study Group is a small group of people who want to implement learning teams inside their organisation.  Meeting weekly for 10 weeks, we spread out the learning experience for you to gradually learn new ideas and concepts and actions to take, which we call plays, because we have a playbook that guides our work.  Each week you run the plays inside your organisation, for real.  Each one builds piece by piece your practical planning and then facilitation of a learning team.  Each week we come together and you get coaching from Andy and I about your previous week’s reflections, what you learned, what worked well, what didn’t.  And a new topic, some new plays, plenty of time to poke and prod and clarify and discuss….and then you implement again.  By the end of 10 weeks we guarantee that you will have completed a learning team for real.  That’s the result many people want, and that’s what we promise to Case Study group members.  It’s called a Case Study Group because each person becomes a case study of their own success.  100% guaranteed or your money back. 

Why not check out our recent webinar on the #1 reason why learning teams fail, and how to avoid this.  That session is super helpful, and you get the details about the Case Study Group there too.  We’re starting soon, and it’s not a big group so check it out if you are interested!

Here’s my three takeaways from that chat with Amanda Clements:

Takeaway #1: What is right in front of you, every day, that you are not tapping into so you can better learn and improve your business?  Appreciative inquiry is one example of an approach which discovers amazing untapped resources – the experience, insights, ideas, creativity, and humanity of people otherwise treated as cogs in a machine or boxes on an org chart.  Amanda said a strengths vs deficits approach.  She also said look at work holistically.  And she said mobilise groups of people.  I guarantee you that in your every day tasks, whether its focussed on risks or incidents or compliance or supervision – you are only looking at a tiny sliver of what you have the potential to learn from and improve.  It starts with appreciating this fact. 

Takeaway #2: The outcomes of learning approaches like appreciative inquiry are unpredictable, almost always in a positive way.  But the expectations of the people involved people should not be unpredictable.  In fact, fail to manage peoples expectations with new, and kind of risky-sounding things like this, and you might kill it before you start.  As professionals, our job is to understand and explain why approaches like this should be attempted, so everyone is sufficiently open and curious, not surprised or skeptical because it wasn’t what they expected from the idea you had sold to them in the first place. 

Takeaway #3: You uncover new and surprising insights, unless you open your mind to what you don’t know or haven’t seen.  The Appreciative Inquiry steps of DISCOVER and DREAM intentionally guide this ‘opening up’, often called divergence.    Identifying and addressing the assumptions underpinning what you do and why, is critical if you want to go beyond the same results you’ve got, even when you try different things.  If you haven’t opened your mind and loosened your assumptions, you’re missing out on the learning and improvement that is possible.  This takes guts.  But we are all leaders.  And that’s what leaders do. 

A couple of other awesome episodes which tie into this conversation today are :

 – Ep143 with Ian Borges, talking about self-managing organisations, which taps into the DESTINY part of appreciative inquiry – letting people self-organise. 

 – I mentioned sawubona, the powerful African word shared between two people.  I explain why that’s so important to me in Ep145

– We need to access more available resources for learning, and innovation, and improvement the people around us – like I said earlier.  In Ep123 I ask you how much of this do we need?

 –  Ep 117 called Versus, and a comma, explores how we can incorporate appreciative approaches in one simple part of our everyday language. 

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!