Fellow nerds (or maybe just fellow spreadsheet aficionados), did you recognise what each of the keyboard shortcuts are in the title of this episode? Ctrl+C, and Ctrl+Alt+V+E? These seemingly innocuous actions might make the all the difference between wasted effort and effective work for you.

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.

You probably knew the first keyboard shortcut right? Ctrl+C, is the copy function.  And what normally follows this shortcut? That’s right, Ctrl+V or paste.  Now I’m assuming most of you are Windows users, hence the keystrokes I’m talking about.  You probaly also know that this is another metaphor, so Mac users like me need to just do a little more thinking about it.

But what about Ctrl+Alt+V+E? If you aren’t driving or swimming or rowing at the gym, you don’t need to wait patiently and compliantly if you don’t know the answer.  Google it now.  I’ll come back to it. 

When we miss the point

I don’t watch a lot of movies, so I’m likely to get this next story factually wrong but you’ll get the crux of it.  In fact it might have even been in a TV show.  Doesn’t matter.  The setting is a broken family, a disappointing father is kicked out of his home for being a deadbeat.  The story shows the tension and angst caused between the fathers desire to stay connected with his kids, and hopeful to be able to show them he is a good guy, and the rest of his life which is filled with the kind of untoward activities that got him into trouble in the first place. 

There comes this point in the movie when the father realises he needs to do something symbolically important to not totally destroy what little faith his child had in him.  There is this moment when the child discovers the father has left a book, a gift.  These were ye olden days, no technology, so the moment is kind of powerful.  Things start getting better between them, the understandably icy child starts to warm up. 

The story unfolds to reveal that the father had actually stolen the book from a very well to do family for whom he works, and it comes to pass that he needs the book back from his child, to whom he gave it as a gift, in order that he doesn’t get into trouble with his employer.  You can imagine what happens next, the exchange between the child and the father where he asks for it back, the tearing apart of the final threads of trust and hope this child had was palpable.  And in the most simple but dramatically effective gesture, the child hands over the book, cementing herself as rising above the trouble of her fathers life, and pushing that and him away entirely. 

It’s kind of a tear jerking moment for a parent. 

The elements of a good deed seemed to be there, but it such a bad idea in so many ways.  Dad missed the point, right?

Borrow, steal, or something else?

Steve Jobs was quoting Pablo Piccaso when he said, “good artists borrow, great artists steal”.  The original saying which Picasso seems to have never actually said, came from W. H Davenport Adams, who said “‘to imitate’ was commendable, but ‘to steal’ was unworthy.” 


This then got picked up and changed by a bunch of people including T. S. Elliot, who is quoted as saying “immature poets imitate.  Mature artists steal”, suggesting that the line between them is very narrow and somewhat blurred, but the main difference being the quality of the output from what a poet in this case borrows depends on whether the deface what was already there, or make it better.   


All of this is kind of artistically ironic given that the original quote has morphed into something quite different from its predecessors. 

Oh, and have you figured out what Ctrl+Alt+V+E does? 

That’s right.  It works in a spreadsheet, and it means transpose.

Transpose this

Transpose is a simple function.  If you have a column of numbers (or any content), and you want that to become a row instead, you copy the column, and paste transpose (Ctrl+Alt+V+E) and voila your column of numbers becomes a row of numbers.

It’s the same numbers, but in a different form, a different structure.  This is not a cosmetic change – the reason why you might want to transpose, is that you can’t do certain calculations with the data if it is in the wrong orientation in your spreadsheet. 

I’ve been described by others as the Andrew Denton of the safety world.  This won’t mean much to non-Australians, but Andrew Denton is arguably one of the most awesome TV interviewers I’ve ever seen.  He is not a new interviewer, or a current affairs interviewer.  He is a deep, human, and empathetic student of other people’s lives. 

And I can’t tell you I was pretty humbled when someone compared me to Denton.  Part of my professional development for the podcast is to study how to be a great podcaster, and my format includes interviews where I am drawing out the awesomeness of another person for your professional learning.  I’ve also had feedback that I need to shut up and let my guests talk more, because Denton doesn’t interrupt like I do.  Ouch.  But not so ouch. 

You see I’m not trying to copy Denton.  I’m trying to adapt what I can from Denton’s interview practice, for my own context.  Its not copy-paste, it’s copy-transpose.  I don’t do interviews, I am trying to cultivate dialogue.  So I’m perfectly fine that I’m not accurately copying Denton. 

From time to time I send emails to those of you who want to hear from me, which you can sign up for at on any of the podcast episode pages.  I’ve also been told that my email writing style is like a guy called Scott Pape, who wrote a very famous book called the Barefoot Investor.  When I got that feedback I’d never seen an email from Pape, so I signed up, and lo and behold it seems like our writing styles were cut from the same cloth.  Which is a total coincidence. 

Where is this going? You might have some idea already, so let me tie this together. 

A crock of sh*t?

In our professional work, it makes sense to copy.  It is driven by the totally human motive to conserve effort.  If we can copy something, it helps us deliver whatever it is that we need to quicker, and we can either work on something else important or go to the beach. 

An old colleague of mine told me a few years ago how they had started in a new organisation in a senior health and safety role, and they had achieved safety management systems certification within 6 months. 

What a crock of shit. 

You cannot tell me that is a success, that we have demonstrated we have, and we have implemented, systems to improve health and safety in what was a huge organisation in such a short amount of time.  This is the father stealing the book to give to the child.  This is missing the point entirely. 

Certification of a system in 6 months is creating the necessary safety work (which has almost nothing to do with the safety of actual work), usually because there is a commercial goal – we have a bug tender coming up.  Such an effort must involve copy-paste, and the timeframe cannot have possible involved the transposition, or adaptation, or tailoring, or user-experience testing required for it to be useful in the real world. 

There are times to copy-paste.  And there are times to transpose.  Let’s talk through how to know the difference. 

When to Ctrl+V, and when to Ctrl+Alt+V+E

I have heard that when the Japanese car companies were creeping up on their American competitors, the tool of trade for an American car manufacturer was a mallet, a hammer.  Parts were bashed into place, by hand.  The parts didn’t always fit well, so they needed some encouragement.  The Japanese factories didn’t use mallets at all, they merely used parts which were manufactured to fit in the right place, making them easy to assemble, and disassemble. 

And we know who won that race. 


I am a big fan of taking a square shaped piece, if you have a square shaped place missing a piece.  If you need a Covid-19 management plan based on the best science and controls appropriate for your industry – copy and paste.  If you have a certain kind of data, and someone’s spreadsheet can analyse that and give you nice reporting which is exactly what you need, then copy-paste. 

The thing is, reality is almost never like that.  The reason why learning teams work so well to drive positive change, is because the learning comes from the process.  You can problem solve your way through a problem, and you might get a similar outcome, but you cannot replicate the enlightenment, the team cohesion, the empathy, the innovation, which comes from a learning team. 

I coach people.  The reason why I coach is that the coaching process binds me to your situation, your context, not mine or anyone else’s.  A mentor will say, “when I was in your seat, in that situation, that is what I did”.  Great, except the mentor was in that seat 10 or 20 years ago which was a very different time, and the situation is almost always slightly different.  The apparently steely certainty of a mentor will seduce us, “yes, this is the path, this is what I need to do!”.  Copy-paste. 

Except what you need, is to transpose.  Sometimes our success comes not from knowing the right answer but going on the search, with the people who we need to come along on the journey. . 

Where is the real value?

I give away almost everything I have.  I love it when I teach a model, a concept, a way of presenting an idea, a metaphor, a story, a play from our learning teams playbook, and someone says, ‘can I use that?’.  My answer is always yes – as long as they adapt it to fit their situation. 

The reason is that most people don’t get the outcome they want anyway, unless they are working with me on one of my programs, because the THING, the model or one pager or whatever, is not what is of value.  It’s the process to get there, and the outcome which follows. 

Transpose on a spreadsheet takes what’s there, and re-orients it so you can do the next thing with it.  Copy-paste the first bit for sure, but transpose it after that. 

That’s what professionals do.  If it feels slower than you would like, then you are probably on the right path to a great quality outcome.

That’s one of the reasons why I help organisations implement practices like learning teams.  I get frustrated when I see people who are courageously interested and try to copy-paste learning teams only to fail or never actually start, because its not a copy-paste exercise, it’s a transposing exercise. 

Because of that, this year we started something very new and so much better than books and training.   For those of you already up to speed on learning teams but struggling to put them into practice, or hesitant to give them a try, this is for you.  It’s called a learning teams implementation Case Study Group.  A small group of people, working together over 10 weeks, which will take you from frustrated or frozen about learning teams, to having successfully completed one.  It’s a hybrid teaching-coaching approach, and it works, it gets results (that’s why it’s called a case study group, every person becomes their own case study of success, not copying someone else’s case study).  We are part way through one group now and the implementation progress has been awesome to see.  We will be starting another one soon, but spots are limited.  If you are serious about getting learning teams started not by copying but by transposing them into your context, then send me an email, with the words CASE STUDY GROUP, and I’ll get you the details. 

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!

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