😷 Viral Edition
Newsletter  🦠

25 February 2020
Coming up in this edition
1. The spread of COVID-19 provides a number of examples of Human Risk in action;
2. The way in which an airline communicated a delay to passengers, illustrates how a simple BeSci Intervention can change how a target audience perceives an unavoidable situation they might not like;

3. Research that explores how disruptive business models are more likely to result in unethical behaviour is Something that made me think; and

4. A BeSci podcast is my Something for the weekend recommendation
Or if you prefer your summary in video form:

Human Risk in action

The spread of COVID-19 (aka Coronavirus) provides us with a number of Human Risk lessons.
As COVID-19 dominates the headlines, it also offers us insights into human decision-making.

While the virus brought out the best in some people, others displayed the opposite trait. Like the prankster who thought it was funny to pretend to have the disease. Or the person with suspected symptoms, who clearly wasn't thinking.

Meanwhile, the Ukranian Health Minister checked herself into a quarantine facility to prove there was no danger to the public. As Luca Delanna, an expert in Emergent Behaviour pointed out: "Either everyone is healthy (so there is no need for quarantine) or, more probably, there is a chance that not everyone is healthy (so the quarantine is needed) and going inside is imprudent."

Luca, who is soon to appear on the Human Risk podcast, also shared insights on how Multiplicative Dynamics suggests the virus will spread. He explains that humans tend to react to things, rather than getting ahead of them. That doesn't help us manage this type of risk: it's too late, for example, if you go to buy extinguishers as you're trying to put a fire out.
While biologists have been racing to find a cure, BeSci experts have been considering how governments should react:

Thought-provoker Koen Smets analysed things from an Ethical perspective. What, he wondered, should we do if deliberately infecting parts of the population would help stem the spread of the virus and improve our chance of fighting it? Sounds crazy, but if you've ever read Koen's blog or followed him on Twitter (and if not, you should), you'll know he's positing the idea for excellent reasons.

Nassim Taleb (of Black Swan Theory fame) and colleagues issued some research on how to deal with the virus. They highlighted the dynamics that lead to "Naive Empiricism"; in other words, how and why we are likely to misinterpret the information we have about the situation. 

They recommend that "policy- and decision-makers must act swiftly and avoid the fallacy that to have an appropriate respect for uncertainty in the face of possible irreversible catastrophe amounts to "paranoia," or the converse, a belief that nothing can be done". 

There's also the vital question of what advice the authorities should give. Enter the Behavioural Insights Team with a paper entitled "How do we encourage the right behaviours during an epidemic?". It's well worth a read, even if you're not in public safety comms. Here's a beautiful example of the advice they give to keep things simple, in action: 
Also on my Human Risk Radar, were these click-worthy stories:

'How a fraud expert fell for a fraud scam'

'The time I sabotaged my boss with ransomware from the dark web'

'They met on a dating app. Then he robbed a bank on their first date and forced her to be the getaway driver'
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A BeSci Intervention

A text message sent by an airline, illustrates the power of thinking about how your target audience will react to the way you engage with them.
If you've ever been stuck at an airport, you'll know that there's one thing that is guaranteed to make a flight delay seem even worse: useless communications from your airline.

So 👏👏 United Airlines for this update:
What this nicely illustrates, is that humanising communications can change the way the target audience reacts to it. You might not be able to change the reality of the situation, but you can impact their perception of it. In this case, the text led to passengers (well one at least!) being far less irritated than they might otherwise have been.

What works for airline delays can also work in other contexts. Compliance, for example. Particularly if whatever it is, you need them to respond to has a qualitative element, where the level of willingness to engage matters.
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Something that made me think

New research explores whether companies whose business models encourage disruption, run greater risk of ethical problems.
One of the features of disruptive business models is that they seek to quickly disrupt existing practices. As we've seen, this has led to a number of high profile examples of unethical behaviour including at Uber, Theranos and WeWork.

Is it merely coincidence, or do these organisations have a greater propensity to unethical behaviour? That's what researchers Dana Kanze, Mark Conley and Tory Higgins set out to discover. Their research, entitled Organizations That Move Fast Really Do Break Things, discovered that the desire to disrupt really does have an impact on ethicality:
Companies with Mission Statements that included words of "locomotion" (getting things done quickly), were found more likely to have ethical issues than those that included words of "assessment" (pursuing goals in a considered manner).  You can read a brief summary of the findings in this HBR article.
Also worth reading on this topic is a Protocol article, which explores whether hiring Ethicists is likely to make a difference. Spoiler alert: probably not. For reasons that a Bloomberg piece explores when it poses the question: "Why do so many tech startups misbehave?".
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Something for the weekend

A podcast that explores BS, is my audio recommendation. BS, of course, being short for BeSci... 
I'll declare a conflict of interest in making this recommendation; I've just appeared on a recent episode of the It's All Just A Bunch of BS podcast.

But that's not the (only) reason you should listen to it.
Each episode sees BeSci guru Nick Hobson, interview experts in the field (and me!) to explore areas where BeSci is being deployed to solve real-world problems. 

Nick is an engaging host and the topics he's covered range from healthcare to curbing our smartphone addiction.
Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts, and then head to Episode 19 for my discussion with him about Human Risk.  
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Incase you missed it...

Speaking of podcasts, since the last newsletter, I've released two more episodes of the Human Risk podcast.  The latest features Jacinthe Galpin, host of the Risktory podcast, a show that looks at history through the lens of risk. She talked with me about that, her passion for risk and what she's learned as an 🇦🇺living in 🇺🇸.  Here's a brief clip:
In Episode 13, I was joined again by Tom Hardin as we discussed topics we've come across in the news that we think are worth further exploration.

More episodes of the podcast, including that episode with Luca are coming very soon, so do subscribe. You'll find it on all the usual platforms as well as here.
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That's it for this newsletter.

Need more Human Risk content in your life? 

For daily updates, you can follow @humanriskblog on Twitter and/or connect with me on LinkedIn.  

I'm also looking at other platforms for distributing content, so if you're interested in helping trial that, do let me know.

Feedback, as ever, welcome. Stay safe out there and do remember 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
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