❄️ Snow Edition ❄️
Welcome back to the first Human Risk Newsletter of 2020 filled with more lovingly-curated Behavioural Science  (BeSci) inspired content. 
New here? Check out the Intro to Human Risk, the Newsletter Archive and then activate your subscription here.
In this edition
1. Human Risk in action from Korea where a false alarm almost sparked troop deployments;
2. A Police Chief's use of Social Media is a great example of a smart BeSci Intervention;

3. Research that shows we're somewhat sheep-like in our choices is Something that made me think; and

4. BeSci-fuelled recommendations to help you stick to your New Year's Resolutions are my Something for the weekend recommendation.
Prefer your headlines in video format?  Here's me trying to summarise what's coming up below in under 60 seconds:

Human Risk in action

A false alarm at a US base in South Korea resulted in troop mobilisation. Although no harm was done, it helps illustrate an important aspect of Human Risk.
With North Korea promising America a Christmas present that, at the time of writing had yet to appear, American troops stationed there were on high alert. So when a warning siren went off at US base Camp Casey, instead of the normal bugle call ("taps") that marks the end of the day, it prompted a reaction.
Santa had a new look for 2019.... (Photo: CNN)
Whilst an Army spokesman described it as "human error" and explained to CNN that the operator "immediately identified the mistake and alerted units...of the false alarm", CNN also reported the comments of one military user on the US Army page of social media network Reddit"So someone on Casey decided to hit the go to war button instead of taps, it was a false alarm but goddam did the entire battery got riled up."
This isn't the first time someone has accidentally pressed the wrong button. In 2018, a test of the Hawaiian missile alert system, caused mass panic when the real alarm was set off by mistake. 

The Human Risk lesson here is that it is tempting to blame the person operating the alert system: after all, how hard can it be to press the right button? What is all too often neglected, is the fact that the systems used to trigger these alarms are often really badly designed.  Here's the screen from the Hawaiian system:

Yes, that's right, the "test" options look almost the same as the "real" ones; it’s highly confusing. As I highlight in a blog about that incident, this is less about Human Error and more about very poor design. 

We'll wait to see what, if anything, is made public from an investigation into the Korean case, but I suspect it will conclude something similar.

The Human Risk lesson here is that it is easier and more understandable when we blame individuals for an error, rather than a badly designed system. But that's often not the right answer. And if it is more system than human error, all you're doing by blaming people is making another failure inevitable.
Almost headlining this section were the following:

A very 🇬🇧 case of Human Risk saw the personal details of people due to be honoured by the 👸🏻, accidentally released online by a government department. It would be bad at any time, but it's particularly embarrassing, given it breaches data protection laws recently introduced by the same government.

The prison officer who thought it was a good idea to have a relationship with an inmate and is now on the other side of the bars.

the Spanish TV reporter who, whilst reporting on a lottery prize, was convinced she'd won it and resigned live on air. It turned out her jackpot wasn't so life-changing after all.
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A BeSci Intervention

A City that outlawed the throwing of snowballs is having second thoughts. In the meantime, a Police Chief took to social media to make a rather effective point. 
Some time ago the lawmakers in Wausau, Michigan decided to ban people from throwing snowballs for public safety reasons. The City's Municipal Code even went as far as classifying them in the same category as arrows and missiles.

Following negative publicity about the ban, the Deputy Police Chief and Mayor wanted to explain how police officers were enforcing the law. Rather than issue a statement, they filmed a very engaging YouTube video that shows they clearly aren't killjoys:
If you don't have time to watch the full (3:42) video, then do click here to see the Chief unleash one of the best snowball throws ever (3:08).

This is a great illustration of the perils of over-codification. A rule designed with one scenario in mind, may not produce a sensible outcome in another. In the absence of a better-drafted law, the outcomes-based policing being adopted is clearly the next best thing. 👏👏to the Wausau Police for their approach. And for making me think of taking a trip there... 
This isn't the only police force using social media effectively. I also recommend following the Police Dept in Lawrence, Kansas who tweeted about their most ridiculous 911 call of 2019.  I also liked their response to this 2017 incident.
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Something that made me think

A resurfacing of a 2005 experiment, gives me an excuse to share my favourite piece of BeSci from last year.
A 2005 experiment resurfaced on Twitter recently and the results are so striking that I just had to share it with you. Photographer Hans Eijkelboom stood in one place for several hours and took photographs of people. I'll let the pictures do the talking...
How can you be so naïve to go to a shop, to buy clothes that sum up your personality, and not realize that, at the same time, 10,000 men and women around the world do and think the same things?” Eijkelboom asks.
All of which allows me to share my favourite BeSci discovery of 2019:  The Hipster Effect. Researchers identified a trend for people who were trying to be non-conformist, to end up conforming to a code of their own.

In a nice "reality meets research" moment, a "hipster" then saw a photo of himself being used in an article that explained the Hipster Effect and complained about its unauthorized use. In doing so he neatly validated the research, because the photo in question wasn't him at all! More on that here.
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Something for the weekend

Some New Year's BeSci-powered advice to help you stick to your resolutions.
Because it's a New Year, you'll obviously be expecting me to give you some BeSci help in meeting your New Year's Resolutions. So here are some resources you might like:
Begin by reading this article by Harvard Business School psychologist Amy Cuddy on the four common problems with New Year's Resolutions.
Then take a look at this NPR guide to starting the year fresh from a mental health perspective. It includes tips from BeSci Professor Katy Milkman.
Finally, try Atomic Habits by James Clear; a book that helps you break bad habits and form good ones.  And it really works. 

Don't just take my word for it. My co-host on a recent podcast, Tom Hardin, chose it as his year-end recommendation.  Hear him talk about the book on this episode.
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Incase you missed it...

Just before the New Year, I saw a number of stories relating to organisations that faced reputational damage, following the actions of one of their suppliers.  So I filmed this video...
Since the last newsletter, I've released another episode of the Human Risk podcast.  

Episode Nine features Roger Dooley, who refers to himself as a Friction Hunter. He's written a fascinating book on the subject that is well worth reading.

Find out what Friction is, why it's so often badly deployed and how we can use it to manage Human Risk. 
And finally, find out in my latest blog what Donald Trump learned from my recent podcast guest Roger Miles.

Thanks as ever for subscribing!


This newsletter is brought to you by Human Risk, my Training & Consulting Firm that specialises in the deployment of BeSci in the fields of Risk, Compliance, Conduct and Culture.  
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