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🖖 Mr Spock Edition 🖖
Welcome back to your Human Risk Newsletter 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 courtesy of a CEO who presided over a toxic culture;
 
2. How the Bank of Canada, misjudged a BeSci Intervention;

3. Research into risk is Something that made me think; and


4. A story of highly sensitive government documents that went missing on an overnight train is my Something for the weekend recommendation.
Prefer your headlines in video format?  Here's me try to summarise what's coming up below in under 60 seconds. 

Human Risk in action

An expose of toxic culture at direct-to-consumer luggage company Away, saw the CEO "pack her bags" 😉
One of the appeals of working for a startup is that they are perceived to have "better" cultures than more established Firms. As I know from my own experience establishing Human Risk, there are benefits to having a blank sheet of paper when it comes to working practices. 

So when I came across this astonishing Verge article about the toxic culture at startup luggage manufacturer Away, it seemed even more shocking than it might have done in, say a Bank.

There are so many details in the article that it's hard to know where to begin. Like the fact that employees weren't allowed to email each other and direct messages were only meant for minor requests (things like “fancy lunch?”)

Instead, they were encouraged to use Slack, a workplace messaging application. Officially this was to promote transparency. However, when the CEO discovered that employees were, entirely predictably, being very transparent about what they thought of the business, she did not react well.


Of course, startups backed by venture capital, are under enormous pressure to deliver, so one might argue that there may need to be compromises when it comes to having the perfect culture. But if you're going to sell yourself as a travel and lifestyle brand, authenticity is essential.

In a “reap what you sow” moment, the CEO has now been fired. Arguably, referring to your staff as a bunch of “millennial twats” is not the best way to run a business...

You'll find all the fascinating details in the article

Also worth reading is this piece that explains how ethical failings in companies with female CEOs are viewed differently to those with male CEOs.  

Almost making it as the headline item in this section, were these two stories:

Firstly, a radio station that broadcast over 60 expletives in one hour, because the presenter "was distracted by an urgent family phone call so selected an unedited mix of music tracks to play out by mistake".  

Secondly, a Vanity Fair article entitled
 Ponzi Schemes, Private Yachts, and a Missing $250m in Crypto which tells the tale of the collapse of  Canada's largest bitcoin exchange. It's bound to become a Netflix movie at some point. Particularly noteworthy is the section where the founder tells investors that he definitely isn't running a Ponzi Scheme. The first rule of Ponzi Scheme Club is of course that anyone who says they're not running one almost certainly is!
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A BeSci Intervention

A 2013 attempt by the Bank of Canada, to try to dissuade people from defacing banknotes would have benefitted from some a basic understanding of BeSci.
If you're responsible for issuing Bank Notes, then you'd obviously prefer it, if people didn't deface them.

So we shouldn't be surprised that the Bank of Canada reacted badly to the fact that people were altering the 2013 version of their $5 bill. Following the death of actor Leonard Nimoy, who played Spock in Star Trek, people began "spocking" notes that featured Canada's seventh Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier:
The Bank reacted by announcing that although it wasn't illegal, they'd prefer it if people didn't "Spock" notes:
It probably won't surprise you to learn that the appeal fell on deaf ears. There are two BeSci-related explanations for this. 

The first is Reactance:  we generally don't like being told what to do, particularly by "killjoy" authorities. UK readers will recall and those unfamiliar with will enjoy, the story of Boaty McBoatface. You can hear more about this dynamic in my discussion with Dr Roger Miles on the Human Risk podcast.

The second is something called the Streisand Effect which is nicely illustrated in this Sketchplanation:
Image courtesy of Sketchplanations.com.  Subscribe to that newsletter here.
To find out why the Effect is named after singer Barbra Streisand, click here
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Something that made me think

New research explores the basis on which people typically take risk and highlights that the factors we use to decide for ourselves, are not what we use when advising others.
The basis on which we take risk is obviously relevant to those of us seeking to manage it. Some new research has identified an interesting divergence between the basis on which we decide to take a risk and the basis on which we advise others to do so.
What the researchers discovered was that people are more likely to rely on descriptive norms (i.e., what their peers are doing) when deciding whether to take a risk themselves

But when it comes to recommending a risk to others, they tend to use injunctive norms (ie. whether their peers approve of the behaviour).

In other words, what the research suggests is that we actually make our decisions based on what we see happening around us, but we prefer to justify our recommendations to others on what is likely to be socially acceptable.   

This is yet another example of how the explanations we sometimes use to explain our behaviour, aren't always reflective of our actual decision-making processes. You can access the (very readable) research here.
My thanks to newsletter reader and organiser of the  🇳🇱Dutch Behavioural Science Network (DBSN), Elina Halonen for sharing this with me. 

Readers interested in hosting or attending a DBSN event can find out more on their LinkedIn and Facebook pages. 
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Something for the weekend

An astonishing story of how a nuclear scientist lost a highly classified document on an overnight train.
In 1953, as a political battle raged over the US' nuclear future, an eminent physicist lost a classified document about the hydrogen bomb, on an overnight train. As National Security secrets go, this was a huge deal.
It's a fascinating tale that I'm sure someone will turn into a movie.  t also reveals some Human Risk insights. One, in particular, caught my eye.  

Following the loss of the papers, a Congress Enquiry faced the dilemma of how to discipline the scientist for losing the documents, without being forced to fire a critical participant from the program: 
“We do not see anything we can do above that at the moment. We still want him in the program. He is a very valuable man, and we do not know anything else we can do without cutting off our nose to spite our faces."
To square the proverbial circle, they drew an inevitable answer from a Human Risk perspective: people will make mistakes. So, if you give someone numerous secret documents, over time they are bound to lose one, so there is a need to "risk accept"  that it will occasionally happen. He was disciplined but not fired.

You can read the entire story here. It's a subject I'll be covering in more detail in a video explainer. Speaking of which, technical issues have prevented me including more video in this newsletter. Look out for more next time!
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Incase you missed it...

As it's the holiday season, I thought I'd do some holiday-related video blogs. Starting with this Human Risk review of a recently invented "tradition", which has some valuable lessons for how we can manage ethical behaviour within organisations:
Since the last newsletter, I've released two more episodes of the Human Risk podcast.  You'll find them wherever you get your podcasts or using the links below.

Episode Five saw me reunite with Tom Hardin (aka Tipper X) to talk about Behavioural Topics in our second Human Risk talk.
Episode Six features Conduct specialist Dr Roger Miles providing some fascinating insights about behaviour, using examples from reality television, current affairs and history. 

Thanks as ever for subscribing!

Christian

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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