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🛒 💵 Sales Commission Edition 
Welcome back to your Human Risk Newsletter, containing lovingly-curated Behavioural Science (BeSci) inspired content, relevant to Risk, Compliance, Conduct & Ethics.
Think you might have missed an edition? Double-check in the Newsletter archive. But also be aware that I conducted a small experiment to see if anyone would notice if I delayed this edition by a week. A large number of you did! 😌
Coming up in this edition
 
1. A report investigating a near-miss on the railways is a perfect case study for Human Risk in action;
 
2. A Bank's attempts to increase payment security is a prime illustration of a poorly designed BeSci Intervention;

3. Research that explores how salespeople can justify selling things they know aren't in their client's best interests is Something that made me think; and


4. A book that explores how generalists can thrive in a specialist's world is my Something for the weekend recommendation.

Human Risk in action

A near-miss on the railways provides a number of Human Risk lessons, and some particularly interesting and surprising ones about Home Working.
A recent investigation report by the UK Rail Safety Board (I've featured the RSB's highly-readable "no blame, what happened?" reporting before) made some interesting observations that are relevant well beyond the rail industry.
The report investigates how a Tamper, a self-propelled piece of on-track machinery (photo below) made an un-signalled and unauthorised move of about 600 metres, passing over a junction, and entering a station platform at a busy London station. Just 75 seconds earlier and the Tamper would've collided with a passenger train.
What's fascinating about this report is that it highlights several issues that are relevant in other sectors:

- loss of a critical document that meant the person responsible for guiding the Tamper made presumptions when giving guidance (paras 67-70);
- no-one challenging or querying contradictory instructions (71-85);
- casual communication of safety-critical information (86-90); 
- a poor home working environment that may have led to lost documents and distraction (92-95); and
- poor management of sub-contractors (96-102).

It's the penultimate point that I think is most interesting and probably the most worthwhile part of the report to read.

At a time when many organisations are encouraging home working, here's a warning about the dangers that, for once, aren't just that people "will spend all day watching TV". There are some roles, like railway maintenance supervision, for which it might not be so well suited.
I can't leave this section without also sharing this video of an extraordinary response to a police officer's request to evacuate a cafe during a terrorist incident that takes "Keep Calm & Carry On" to a whole new level.
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A BeSci Intervention

A Bank's attempt to increase payment security, illustrates precisely how not to do Behavioural Interventions.
Usually, in this section, I highlight BeSci interventions that I think do a good job at persuading a target audience to change their behaviour. Occasionally, I feature ones that don't. 

Like when customers of a certain UK Bank were sent the following instructions explaining how the Bank was making the payment process ”even more secure":
I'm all for improving security for financial transactions. But what this does is also make it significantly more complicated. It's a prime example of a process, created without any thought for the end-user.

The Bank's customers responded accordingly on Twitter:

"It will be secure as nobody will ever use it!"

"The UX is for the bank, not the user. Reduces claims of “oh I didn’t realise what account number I was sending the money to” I guess".

"Totally mind-bending. Momentarily thought it was phishing as it is so contrary to any acceptable UX pattern."


A number also made disparaging remarks about Compliance, which as a former Compliance Officer, I'm not going to repeat.

The point worth noting here is that if you make things highly complicated, users will get frustrated and, if they can, find workarounds that might be less safe. Or, in the case of Banks that make transacting very frustrating, take their business elsewhere.

What makes for good security might not be so good for customer retention. You can see the original thread here.
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Something that made me think

New research explores the susceptibility of salespeople to sell unsuitable products, if it generates higher commission for them.
Will salespeople recommend things to their clients that they know aren’t in the client’s best interest, if it pays more sales commission?

That’s what some new research called Bribing The Self explores.


Researchers tested whether telling people about incentives before they were able to evaluate a product, made them more likely to find reasons to recommend it, than people who were told about the incentives afterwards.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, they concluded that if a recommendation has a subjective element, as is the case do financial products or even medical treatments, there is enormous potential for them to engage in self-deception.

 
Illustration by RIA Intel
Ways to mitigate this risk, include sharing as little information as possible about their potential reward with the recommender before they make a recommendation, and ensuring they have as much information as possible about the clients' preferences.

For a summary of the findings read this article.
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Something for the weekend

Range is a highly readable book that explores why generalists triumph in a specialized world
A book that was published last year is something I keep returning to, and so I wanted to share it with you.  Perceived wisdom is that to be successful; we need to specialise in one particular field ("pick and stick"). 
Range by David Epstein is a book that explores the idea that adaptable generalists can have more success than those who focus on one thing.

While I'm conscious that I like the book because it reinforces my own career choices, I think it raises some fascinating counter-intuitive points about how to develop expertise.
For that reason, it makes my recommendation list. Here's an introduction video of David explaining what the book covers:
I also recommend this interview he did with Vox magazine.
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Incase you missed it...

Since the last newsletter, I've released two more episodes of the Human Risk podcast.

In Episode 11, I broke new ground in 2 ways. Firstly by having not just one, but two guests and secondly, by inviting other Human Risk related podcasters onto the show. It's a new feature I've introduced as I figure that picking the brains of people who've spent time talking to others about Risk or BeSci will allow us to glean some useful insights.

Tim Houlihan and Kurt Nelson didn't disappoint. They're BeSci practitioners who also host the fantastic Behavioral Grooves (and now also Weekly Grooves) podcasts.  
Then on Episode 12, I spoke with Risk Expert Alex Sidorenko about how we can think more intelligently about managing risk. He's one of the most innovative thinkers in the field of risk and shared some fascinating insights.
A regulatory intervention by the UK's Financial Conduct Authority got me thinking about a general lesson we can learn about behavioural interventions.  As I explain in this video:
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Finally, for much more regular updates from the world of Human Risk, then do follow @humanriskblog on Twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn.

Feedback, as ever, welcome. 


Christian

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