Highlights from WYSAW 2018

We had a great time at WYSAW this fall.  There were a ton of great presentations and plenty of opportunities to socialize during breaks. 

As with each WYSAW event (this was the fourth one) Lynne Wolfe challenged us to take home 2-3 things from each speaker that we would incorporate into our own practices. While each speaker may resonate differently with each person here are some of our take homes from this past weekend:

The Illusion of Control and The Perils of Positive Outcomes – Dale Atkins

The keynote address challenged us all to think right off the bat…

Here is a quote to ponder:

We took off in really sketchy weather conditions, but we made it through fine” – Pilot

How do you feel about that pilot?

We skied in really sketchy avalanche conditions, but we made it through fine” – Skier

How do you feel about that skier?

For most of us, we would prefer not to fly with that pilot, yet most of us have probably been that skier.  Why is that OK?  Dale continued with a smorgasbord of references and concepts that challenged HOW we look at accidents.  Most accident reporting is modeled after a law enforcement report – what happened – just the facts with little to no interpretation.  Lawyers support that and say that all documentation should contain just the facts with no opinions. What Dale suggested was a new paradigm of looking at accidents for WHY they happened.  He said that “hindsight bias” often leads to judgements because we know the outcome. It is important to evaluate the process of the decision making, but not the outcome.  This will highlight the vulnerabilities of the parties involved and perhaps add to our ability to avoid similar mistakes in the future. Honestly, that seems difficult in light of how the legal system wants us to record data and analysis, but perhaps there is a way to do this without exposing ourselves and our employers to liability.  It does seem like a quicker way to effect change.

His take home points for the audience were:

  1. Be humble – acknowledge when you make mistakes
  2. Practice sensemaking – Why does it make sense to us to do what we intend to do?
  3. Use some imagination – picture your plan going awry – pre-mortem test
  4. Add some devil – have someone (not always the same person) play the counterpoint.
  5. Interrupt – Similar to a pause step in a checklist. Interrupt the process, so you can possibly break the chain of small errors and/or gain situational awareness. This is a process to brake the dysfunctional momentum that can affect backcountry travel groups.

The mantra that he had the audience repeat twice is an eye opener:

Safety should be born in the belief that everything I do can lead to a potential disaster!

We’ll be posting more highlights from WYSAW in the next couple weeks.

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