Upcoming Workshop: Business and Safety have evolved. Have you?

Gary Wong is in Ireland from March 12th-15th, and will be delivering a ‘navigating complexity’ workshop with Upstream in Cork on March 14th.


The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.

This was Abraham Lincoln’s 2nd annual address to the United States congress on December 1st 1862, and although over 150 years old, it is apt when drawing comparisons to the predicament faced by Health & Safety professionals today.

The stable, certain, and predictable work environments of the last century are a distant memory, now we recognise our organisations are exposed to risks both internally and externally, and in order to survive and evolve we need to become more resilient. We have moved from an ordered space to a complex one, and science now recognises that our organisations are ever-changing complex adaptive systems.

Going back to Lincoln, we must think & act anew to save our profession & organisations from doom. But where to start? That’s where we step in, with ‘praxis’ – theory informed practice, which will enable emergence of solutions within your organisation to the situations that you face.

That means navigating (not fighting nor reducing) complexity, building resilience, making sense of the unknowables and unimaginables that emerge, and, of course, making everything safer for workers and the public.

Standard sciences tend to see the world as mechanistic. That sort of science puts things under a finer and finer microscope. This is finer and finer reductionist thinking. The movement that started complexity looks in the other direction. It’s asking, how do things assemble themselves? How do patterns emerge from these interacting elements?” – Brian Arthur

Many company safety programs on the surface appear to be running well. Years of focus on developing and advancing safety processes, policies, and systems have helped. Yet there seems to be something missing as incidents that according to theory shouldn’t be happening still occur.

Now add unforeseen safety issues due to new laws and regulations imposing compliance and punishment. Safety rules and policies that once seemed clear are now confusing and require revising. Will you be revising using old safety paradigms or refreshing them differently?

Developments in cognitive science and complexity theory and its application to Business and Safety are offering new solutions and approaches.


Instead of hoping to find “the root cause,” let’s realize that in a complex systems, there is no such thing as a “root cause”… Normal work, by normal people, embedded within normal system interactions, gives rise to good as well as bad events. Let’s understand how these events emerge, and then try to influence them, rather than assuming we have control over them by removing a “root cause” or “bad apple” – Sidney Dekker

Gary Wong is in Ireland from March 12th-15th, and will be delivering a ‘navigating complexity’ workshop with Upstream in Cork on March 14th. See https://bit.ly/2RVL7h9 for more details…. We are also available to deliver workshops inhouse during those dates. Contact us if you would like to book…


Typical topics are:

  • an introduction to complexity science
  • Cynefin Framework
  • naturalistic v idealistic planning
  • strategies and Cynefin Dynamics to navigate complexity
  • non-linear solution-finding v linear problem-solving

Safety topics include:

  • the evolution of safety
  • safety strategy
  • risk & resilience
  • heuristics
  • safe-to-fail experiments
  • narrative and nudging to shape a safety culture.

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