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Vegas Parking Ticket Edition Newsletter
Welcome back  to the latest edition of the Human Risk Newsletter, containing lovingly-curated Behavioural Science 
(BeSci) inspired content. New here? 
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SO HOW CAN I APPLY THIS STUFF?
If you like the idea of deploying the kind of techniques I highlight in the newsletter at work (or elsewhere) then you're not alone! I'm the same.


It's why I created Human Risk Ltd. my BeSci Training and Consulting Firm.
When things aren’t working the way we want them to, particularly within Risk & Compliance, there’s likely to be a human component that BeSci can help solve. 

Whether there's a regulator breathing down our neck and we need to show them we're really solving the thing they care about, we've inherited an incurable case of Human Risk or we simply want to make people do what we want...All resolvable. So. why not get in touch to discuss how BeSci can help fix things? 

You could read this and let others implement it. Or we could work together to make it happen in your office. Your call...
Coming up in this edition
 
1. A cancelled festival and a fire at a record label provides a double dose of Human Risk in action in the music industry;

2. I highlight a common Cognitive Bias by looking at how pilots react to tales of near-misses;
 
3. A BeSci Intervention from Las Vegas that encourages people to pay their parking fines;

4. Research into whether complex rules are more likely to be broken is Something that made me think; and


5. My Something for the weekend recommendation is a podcast that looks at the astonishing failures behind the construction of an airport in Berlin.

Human Risk in action

A cancelled music festival and a catastrophic fire at a record label that was covered-up for 11 years, provide a double dose of Human Risk in action.
I was going to dedicate this section to Vestiville, a Belgian music festival which was cancelled in chaotic circumstances. Much as you must visit their website to enjoy the utterly incomprehensible event description, on closer examination, the facts bore a strange resemblance to another ill-fated music festival. As one attendee pointed out:
To see how history can repeat itself, I recommend reading this article on the Vestiville chaos. Those readers who are unfamiliar with the Fyre Festival precedent can read more in this article and should really indulge themselves by watching the Netflix documentary of the same name
From Fyre to a 2008 Fire of the literal kind. This one in the Los Angeles premises of Universal, one of the largest music labels in the world. The company claimed it had been a 'close call' and that although some tapes had been destroyed, backup copies existed elsewhere. They appear to have lied.

As a recent New York Times investigation discovered, hundreds, if not thousands of master recordings by some very famous artists were permanently destroyed. 
Master tapes are irreplaceable; what we experience via recorded music is a selective version of what is originally recorded. In his long-running legal battle over his recording contract with Warner Brothers, Singer/Songwriter Prince once said: ''If you don't own your masters, your master owns you.''

Sheryl Crow, one of the artists whose masters were destroyed, spoke about the fire in a recent BBC interview

Showing a flair for Operational Risk, Crow raised some excellent points about the incident:

"I can't understand, first and foremost, how you could store anything in a vault that didn't have sprinklers.

"And secondly, I can't understand how you could make safeties [back-up copies] and have them in the same vault. I mean, what's the point?

"And thirdly, I can't understand how it's been 11 years," she added. "I mean, I don't understand the cover-up."

They're partly answered in the NYTimes feature. But be warned. As is often the case with Human Risk related incidents, the quality of decision-making you'll read about is terrifyingly low. Bad news for music fans, good news for cynics wondering whether there's enough material to sustain a bi-weekly Human Risk newsletter.

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Bi-Weekly Cognitive Bias

The way in which pilots look at close-calls, is a perfect illustration of something called The Outcome Bias.

The airline industry relies on a culture of learning in which regulators and airlines encourage pilots to report and understand errors.

Recent research suggests they're not as good at interpreting feedback from this as we might expect. Pilots participating in an experiment were asked to rate the performance of fictional "pilots" who had taken off in "questionable" weather and then experienced a range of outcomes including "no incident" safe landings, near-misses and crashes.  

The outcome of the flight played a huge part in how the participants rated the "pilot's" performances. This is classic Outcome Bias; a tendency to judge the quality of a decision by the known outcome, rather than the information that was available to the decision-maker at the time.

"P
ilots" who did not encounter any incidents were viewed as having better decision-making abilities and taking less risk, than those who crashed; even though both "pilots" took off into the same conditions.

More worryingly, the participants judged "pilots" who had close-calls very similarly to "pilots" who encountered none. 

Click here to read the research. 

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A BeSci Intervention

If there's one City in the world that knows how to separate people from their money, then it's Las Vegas. So when the City Council announced a plan to make paying parking tickets more palatable, they got my attention. 
None of us likes paying parking tickets. So I was intrigued to read about a decision by the Las Vegas City Council that they would allow people to settle their parking tickets by donating school supplies to an educational charity.
Now and for a few weeks, anyone receiving a “non-public safety citation” can, in place of payment, donate new, unwrapped school supplies of equal or greater value to their fine, to be evidenced by a receipt. The charity helps fill a funding gap which, according to this NYTimes article, sees 94% of US Teachers spending their own money on school supplies.  

The idea of allowing donations in lieu of fines was first tried in Vegas in 2016 after trials in other cities proved successful. The logic behind it is that people are more likely to pay their fines if they know they're depriving a charity, rather than the City. 

The fact they've re-run the 2016 experiment suggests the original justification of "fiscal neutrality" (ie. it costs the City nothing) remains valid.

My guess is that it makes it harder to argue that parking fines are just about revenue generation and so people are more compliant when it comes to paying them; even when the "donate in lieu" period ends. I also suspect that the expense of chasing non-payers means they've chosen a peak period for non-payment of fines to re-implement this.
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Something that made me think

Proving that simplicity is often better, some new research shows that increases in the complexity of rules leads to an increased likelihood of non-compliance. 
One of the basic BeSci rules is that if you want someone to do something, then make it easier. 

Some recently published research tested precisely that by examining (yes, really!) 81,266 rule-level observations from 1,011 health inspections of 289 Californian restaurants. 
The research focused on two aspects that make rules more complicated. Firstly Components (what is in the rule) and secondly Connections (how the rule inter-relates to other rules).  

Unsurprisingly, what the researchers discovered was that the more Components or Connections a rule had, the greater the likelihood of non-compliance. But that's not all. To find out which aspect is more influential than the other, read the research by clicking here.
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Something for the weekend

A podcast explores the story of Berlin's long overdue new airport.  The story is a masterclass in how not to build one.

Berlin's new airport (code BER) was supposed to open in 2012.  However, 11 years after construction began and six missed opening dates, BER is far from finished. Costs have ballooned from around €1 billion to at least €5.4 billion and BER is currently scheduled to open in 2020.

How this came to happen is the subject of a podcast called How To F#€k Up An Airport.  Produced by Radio Spaetkauf, Berlin's English language radio news show, this fascinating 4-part series explores what by any standards is bad, but by German standards is nothing short of a national disgrace.

As the producers explain:

"Across this series, you’ll learn why the escalators are too short, why the lights are always on, and why the rooms seemed to be numbered by bingo. We’ll interview insiders and disgruntled workers, chase ghost trains running to the terminal, and go inside the unfinished airport."

It's a really compelling listen that illustrates the impact of poor decision-making by a whole host of people. There are so many lessons to be learned from a Human Risk perspective. My favourite being the entirely serious suggestion that non-functioning fire alarms weren’t an issue because they could hire human fire alarms who would shout if they saw a fire. It got overruled, but many other dumb ideas didn’t.

I was hooked by
How To F#€k Up An Airport and I’m sure you will too. It’s available wherever you get your podcasts.

If that whets your appetite to know more about BER, then I recommend a BBC article entitled: Berlin Brandenburg: The airport with half a million faults.  After that read a 2018 Deutsche Welle opinion piece entitled Tear down Berlin's unfinished airport and start over!

In researching this, I also came across several articles about strange items passengers have brought into the existing Berlin airports. They're too good to keep to myself. Learn about how sex toys closed a terminal, a passenger tried to smuggle tortoises disguised as cakes, and a man who arrived with a boa constrictor in his underwear. All proving that Human Risk comes in passenger as well as airport form. 
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Until the next time...

If you've read this far, you're BeSci ready. Whatever isn't working in your world, there's bound to be a BeSci solution to at least part of it. The way you find it is by getting in touch.

Christian

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