Workplace BS Edition
Newsletter  🐄💩

10 March 2020
Coming up in this edition
1. More on how COVID-19 is providing yet more examples of Human Risk in action;

2. Research into BS in the Workplace is Something that made me think; and

3. A Netflix reality show is my Something for the weekend recommendation
Or if you prefer your summary in video form:
Reminder: The kinds of ideas and techniques I refer to in this newsletter can also help to solve problems within your organisation.

If you think I can help you in deploying Behavioural Science (BeSci) to get better outcomes or want me to do a webinar/presentation to your colleagues/clients, do get in touch!

Human Risk in action

The spread of COVID-19 (aka Coronavirus) continues to provide a number of Human Risk lessons.
With COVID-19 continuing to grab the headlines, it provides plenty of examples of Human Risk. As highlighted by this article entitled Coronavirus: a disease that thrives on human error. Space prohibits me from covering them all, so panic buying, suboptimal decision-making, human error and idiocy will have to wait until another time. Here are two.

1. Behaviour Change
To prevent the spread of the virus requires us to change behaviour. Most obviously, as you're hopefully aware, by regular handwashing. 
The reason for that is explained in some 2015 research which monitored the number of times we typically touch our faces. 👉

Note how often we touch the mucous membranes (👄👃👀) which are where the Coronavirus enters the body. Because this behaviour is so ingrained, maintaining hand hygiene is critical in preventing disease.
Unfortunately, we're not very good at it. Watch this video of health officials telling people not to touch their faces & then doing just that.
However, as this article by Michael Hallsworth, MD North America, at the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) highlights, there are BeSci techniques we can deploy to make it more prevalent.

One of which is posters in 🚽:
After testing what worked best using online tests, this poster was designed & rushed to 🏥in a few days. For more on the ideas behind it, read this thread by BIT's Elspeth Kirkman.

Meanwhile in Texas, they're using a 🌶 analogy to help people understand how much hand scrubbing is required. 

And in 🇵🇭, they've come up with a questionable mnemonic that combines do's & don'ts. 🤷🏻
A prominent practice that makes little sense in the current environment is shaking other people's hands. A BBC  📹 illustrates alternatives that people have been adopting. Surprisingly, this might help social interaction, as previous research into shaking hands found evidence that particular 🤝 make people 😟, while another study showed that 🤜🤛ing is far more hygienic. 
2. Messengers
The virus has also revealed the perils of misinformation and who we get our advice from. Unsurprisingly, social media is fuelling much of it as the NYTimes [$] explored. But so are celebrities.

Liverpool ⚽️ manager Jurgen Klopp was asked about the virus. His response (that people should listen to 🩺experts, not him) revealed a lot about how we sometimes take advice from the wrong people. 
This neatly illustrates something called the Halo Effect where our perceptions about one quality an individual possesses, lead to biased presumptions about others. Just because he's a good ⚽️manager, doesn't make him a 🩺 medical expert. Something that's made very obvious by the fact he touches his face rather a lot!

Meanwhile, Prince William was caught on camera somewhat jokingly asking an emergency worker whether the virus had been "a little bit hyped up by the media."
Although it probably wasn't his intention, what he's actually done here is reinforced precisely that idea. The lesson here is that if governments don't bring influential messengers on board, they can find themselves competing for the public's attention and trust. The same applies within organisations.

Obviously, the best way to ensure we get accurate information is to use critical thinking and fact check. Particularly on social media; this Twitter thread explains how.  

For more on how the person who is communicating with us, can matter more than the message itself, do check out a book I recommended in a recent newsletter called Messengers: Who We Listen To, Who We Don't and Why
In the last newsletter, I featured Luca Delanna, an expert in Multiplicative Dynamics. He joined me on the Human Risk podcast.

Listen 👉here or wherever you get your 🎧 content. 
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Something that made me think

Some research into Workplace BS is likely to resonate, wherever you work.
Sometimes I come across pieces of research that I know you, my readers, are going to love. That happened with Confronting indifference toward truth: Dealing with workplace BS. The actual title doesn't abbreviate the word BS, but as many of you read this at work, I don't want the newsletter getting blocked by overzealous filters!

In 11 highly readable pages, the authors explore why Workplace BS is so prevalent and what we can do to try to minimise it. To help with that, they've developed a wonderfully named framework:
It's worth noting that Workplace BS often drives Human Risk. Many aspects of my work with clients involve BS elimination: whether it's pointless meetings, useless policies or counter-productive controls.

And remember that what is BS, is in the eye of the beholder. You might have organised a meeting with good intentions, but it's what the participants think that matters!
Professor Ian McCarthy, one of the co-authors of the research, joined me on the Human Risk podcast to talk about it. You can hear what he had to say 👉here or wherever you get your 🎧.
Ian and colleagues have also created a Survey to allow you to see how much BS flows in your workplace. It'll only take you three minutes to fill in and you'll find it 👉here
Also highly readable on this topic is a book by anthropologist David Graeber called Bullish Jobs: The Rise of Pointless Work, and What We Can Do About It*. The book builds on a thesis he presented in this 2013 essay, that over half the jobs done today are pointless.  

* Bullish Jobs is not the actual title.  
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Something for the weekend

A Netflix reality show offers some interesting behavioural insights
First, a warning: my viewing recommendation is, on the face of it, not a particularly sophisticated or 🧠offering. It's a Netflix reality dating show called Love Is Blind which I'm suggesting you watch as a psychological experiment rather than for entertainment.
Billed as a "social experiment", it features 15 women & 15 men sitting in pods separated by a thin screen; the idea being for them to get to know each other, without the distraction of being able to see each other.

If there's chemistry in the dark, within a few days, they get engaged and finally get to see each other. They then move in together and plan their wedding.

I did warn you that it's not a cerebral show!

The reason I'm recommending this arguably unethical experiment is that it neatly illustrates something called Object Relations. When we don't have sufficient information about a situation, we look for clues from our past experience to guide us. This doesn't just apply to dating.

Events from our childhood become "objects" that we use to predict other people's behaviour; we project qualities onto people we don't know well, because it reminds us of someone from our past. For more on that dynamic, I recommend reading 👉 this.

As this Psychology magazine article explains, there are a number of other psychological lessons we can learn from the show.

Though before watching, you might also want to read these reviews: I watched Netflix's Love Is Blind and I hate myself and Toxic, revolting and totally addictive.
Finally, in case you missed any of my earlier promos 😉 for the Human Risk podcast, there's one more episode to share with you! You'll find it 👉here.
Richard Bistrong is an anti-bribery specialist who joined me for a 20-minute chat on Incentives, Ethics & Compliance. Check out the clip from the show 👈 to hear Richard use a great analogy to describe incentive programs.
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That's it for this newsletter. 

Need help with Human Risk issues or want me to do a webinar or presentation? Get 
in touch!.

Need more Human Risk content in your life? For daily updates, follow @humanriskblog on Twitter.

Alternatively, the Twitter feed is now also available via messaging app Telegram. Just use this link 👉 to subscribe or view the feed in your browser.

Finally, a public service reminder not to touch your face 🤦‍♀️🤦‍♂️and to wash your hands regularly!


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The newsletter is brought to you by Human Risk, a Training & Consulting Firm that specialises in the deployment of BeSci in the fields of Risk, Compliance, Conduct and Culture.  To find out more, get in touch!
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