The Language of In-Between in Safety

imageOne of the tragic outcomes of zero language in safety is the fixation on binary thinking ( ; ). It’s always about zero or 1. It’s always black or white, fast or slow (thanks Kahneman) no in-between. This is NOT how life, living, learning and reality works.

All learning is gradual and involves transitions. In many ways all learning involves a gradation of process and in many ways we never ‘arrive’. Such is the importance of wisdom and maturity.

Just think of how long it takes to learn such essential things as balance, language, reading and writing. All these essentials to live as a human in the world takes many years. Even so, after many years at school some still have no mastery of their own language.

Just think of all that is learned by experience and how all this is embedded in intuitive knowing (We know more than we can say – Polanyi). Think of the many years to learn a trade or how to do even simple tasks and do them well.

It takes years, there is no fast and slow.

Yet we find so much expectation in the safety industry for perfection. Once that induction dump has been made you now apparently know how to be safe. We see this in all cases in safety where blaming is so prevalent.

Anyone who knows the first thing about learning and comprehension knows that learning, memory, recall and embodied learning are neither simple or binary.

We know that just in reading that comprehension is not about absorption but rather all comprehension involves: situation, context, interpretation, prior knowledge, readability, reading readiness, language maturity, summarising, sequencing, deduction, comparison, contrasting, questioning, background knowledge and learning intelligence. Many don’t develop such skills in reading in a life time. Oh yes, but we are going to realise zero in a life time ( Zero is a dangerous idea (

Yet, Safety expects people to read so much text and comprehend it!

Yet no safety curriculum anywhere includes an understanding of perception, motivation, learning and comprehension.

Even in the so called ‘learning teams’ from so called Safety Differently, there is nothing on the nature of learning or comprehension. Similarly, the silly notion of ‘usability mapping’ ( has no comprehension of the nature of learning or comprehension. Amazing how a safety diploma makes one expert in learning, education and comprehension.

So, let’s have a quick look at all the language we use in daily life that acknowledges the in-between:

· Moderate

· Measured

· Unhurried

· Restrained

· Cautious

· Circumspect

· Piecemeal

· Step by step

· Little by little

· Bit by bit

· Progressive

· Successive

· Continuous

· Systematic

· Steady

· Even

· Gradual

· Gently

· Unhurried

· Patience

· Middle

· During

· Intervention

· Central

· Among

· Amidst

· Halfway

· Betwixt

· Interval

· Mediate

· Continuous improvement

And so much more.

We live and learn by this language that acknowledges that all learning puts us in the in-between.

Being in-between is foundational for fallibility and essential for learning ( ).

All this language is captured in the principles of ALARP and Due Diligence. Neither of these principles in the Act and Regulation expect perfection or completeness (

Fast and slow thinking is a myth (

The simplistic nonsense that circulates about safety related to zero is simply delusional and anti-learning. Zero is the denial of in-between. Zero only accepts the absolute and denies process in learning. Similarly, it denies trial and error, that is foundational to much learning.

This is why in SPoR we acknowledge all of this in the One Brain Three Minds (1B3M) model ( ).

This is a positive, practical and constructive method embodied in the SPoR method of iCue ( ).

Such a model enables a better approach to tackling risk, understanding of learning and accepting the many challenges of comprehension that face the safety industry.

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