Dr Rob Long’s New Book “For the Love of Zero” is hot off the the Press and I cannot wait to read it. It seems that, finally, the thinkers amongst us are realising the danger and absurdity of using impossible and negative terminology in programs and slogans aimed at motivating human behaviour, improving workplace culture and providing a safer work environment. The real worry is that these ridiculous safety slogans dominate high risk industries such as mining and construction! Nowhere else in society would you see such negative marketing campaigns – imagine how many customers QANTAS would lose if they had “ZERO CRASH” emblazoned on all their aircraft. The Zero Harm Zealots accuse people like Rob and I of advocating harm!! HUH??? Does Toyota advocate road fatalities because they don’t aim to make all their cars CRASH PROOF? They can aim to make all their vehicles as safe as practically and cost effectively possible and continuously improve those safety features, except for one critical component, they cannot redesign the NUT THAT HOLDS THE STEERING WHEEL!!!!!
Anyway………. the book is out and is being officially launched at the Wayside Chapel (one of Australia’s largest Community Crisis Centres), Kings Cross, Sydney on Friday 14 December at 3pm, a great place to launch a book on risk. Rob’s brother Graham, the CEO of Wayside Chapel, is going to launch the book. If people want to attend the launch they can rsvp to email@example.com. Graham wrote the forward to the book and of course shows how the language of zero in Kings Cross is an absolute nonsense, positioned as they are in the midst of “harm central” in Australia. So if they don’t advocate zero, do they want people to be harmed?
Oh BTW, for those who reckon I only support Rob’s work for personal or financial gain – sorry, but NUH!!!!!
If you would like to buy a copy now just click on the image of the cover below.
More about the book:
For the Love of Zero, Human Fallibility and Risk
In a perfect world things don’t go bump and wheels don’t fall off, humans don’t make mistakes and people don’t suffer – but we don’t live in a perfect world. No amount of denial of human fallibility makes it so. We have hospitals, morgues and cemeteries that remind us that human life is not only finite but that suffering and risk test your attitude to learning. In the midst of human reality there are proponents claiming that ‘all accidents are preventable’ and advocating ‘zero harm’. Some organisations even reward employees for meeting ‘zero’ goals and thereby ‘prime’ workers to hide, deny and under-report harm.
This book is an extension of the previous book Risk Makes Sense: Human Judgement and Risk. There is no sense in total risk aversion or risk elimination. There is no learning without risk.
The absolute of ‘zero’ is actually not possible. There is no nothing. This is despite the fact that the word ‘zero’ dominates our culture, giving its name to everything from drinks, motorbikes and shops. There is no void and any effort to try and measure zero is affected by the efforts to measure it. Scientists can’t get to absolute zero (Zero Kelvin −273.15°). Yet there are many organisations and CEOs who set ‘zero’ goals for their organisations in the management of risk .
What do perfectionist goals do to humans? Do perfectionist goals motivate humans to learn? Do perfectionist goals set people up to fail? Why are absolute goals for perfection absent from all walks of life except mining and construction companies? Why do academics, teachers and sport coaches know that absolutes and perfection are de-motivating yet these organisations don’t? Why do psychologists associate perfectionism with mental health disorders yet some CEOs see perfectionism as healthy? Are such perfectionist goals applicable for themselves or only for others?
Much of the quest for zero is based on binary opposition thinking. This is black and white fundamentalist thinking. Binary opposition thinking can only imagine two options: if it’s not white, it must be black. You are either a good citizen or a terrorist. There are no ‘50 shades of grey’ in the ‘zero’ mind-set. One either sets a goal for harm or one must only have goals for ‘zero’. Such simplistic thinking is endorsed by language of entrapment to prove its own assumption. There are more sophisticated ways of thinking and speaking that make better sense of the real world and enable motivation and learning.
This book seeks to contribute to the debate about the value of zero harm as a goal and motivational tool to stimulate ownership in risk. The ever expanding-popularity of the mantra of zero harm across mining, building and construction and related industries has spread like an epidemic in the last 10 years. But is the concept all it’s claimed to be? Has the adoption of zero harm language been well thought through? Does the concept of zero harm inspire and motivate leadership, ownership and better practice? Does the discourse of zero harm promote the right outcome, or are there hidden dynamics associated with its promotion? What is the logic of zero harm? Is the ideology of zero harm ethical or helpful? Is the binary oppositional mindset that accompanies zero helping lead people to thinking, learning and dialogue about risk? Does the language of ‘zero’ perpetuate adversarialism? Could it be that the discourse of zero harm counter-intuitively stimulates the opposite of what it seeks to achieve? These and many more questions are answered by the discussion of this book.
Everywhere you look in the mining, building and construction industry you can see the advocacy for zero harm. The Queensland Government offer a Zero Harm at Work Leadership Program as part of their ‘zero harm strategy’, with more than 300 hundred members made up of nearly every company of significance in the state (http://www.deir.qld.gov.au/workplace/zeroharm/partners/index.htm ). You can find companies called Zero Harm and positions advertised as ‘Manager of Zero Harm’. There are advertisements for ‘zero harm auditing services’, ‘zero harm training’, ‘zero harm directors’ and ‘zero harm charters’. As you fly about Australia and walk through airport lounges the badging for zero harm is everywhere, on shirts, cups, drink bottles and every imaginable marketing trinket, but not on the airline marketing. The language of zero harm seems to be everywhere. Companies give out ‘zero harm safety awards’, speak about ‘designing zero harm’, ‘towards zero harm’ and ‘think zero harm’. Some even go to the absurd use of language, espousing such meaningless language as ‘beyond zero harm’.
So, in writing this book I may not be winning lots of friends and certainly am running against the tide. It would be easy to endorse the status quo and tell everyone what they want to hear, the language of simplicity seems so attractive and certainly a source of income in safety, security and risk consulting. If you want business in training in risk it seems you conform to and espouse zero harm or you don’t get the work. However, that would be counter to the evidence that shows that the ‘zero’ concept and ‘zero’ language are far from harmless or motivational.
This book seeks to show that the zero harm concept, zero harm discourse and zero harm ideology undermine a culture of learning in organisations. The book discusses issues to do with culture, language, motivation, goal setting, binary opposition, unconscious priming, cognitive dissonance, counter-intuitive dynamics and survey evidence on zero harm believability and ownership.
Whilst this book is primarily focused on risk and safety it is important to realise that any discussion of zero extends way beyond such interests. As the issues of zero and risk are discussed it is important to remember how other areas of business such as quality, sustainability, environment, management, leadership and health might also be influenced by this ideology.
This is a book for the fallible, the human and those committed to learning.
Rob has given me quite a few copies of his book to give away to supporters so if you would like a free copy CLICK HERE to find out how.