The Risk, Learning and Resilience Continuum

One of the reasons why risk is a ‘wicked problem’ is because of the ambiguities and paradox embedded in every aspect of risk-taking, indeed, in living. For example, if risk is required for learning how can one learn by extinguishing it? If risk is eliminated, how can there be learning? The paradox of risk is that it is essential to the human condition. If you are a fallible person, you must risk – Risk Makes Sense.

So, the paradox of zero is that the only way to achieve it with fallible people is through stasis, by not moving. Zero is cocoon safety. All movement is essential for learning. If one aspires for zero then one aspires to not move and not learn. If one aspires to learn then one must move. This is why the foundation for human sensing are the e-motions. Emotion moves us and is NOT the enemy ( Only those who don’t understand the human e-motions demonsise them.

All movement and risk are founded on ‘not-knowing’. There is no guarantee or prediction of certainty in risk, otherwise, the word ‘risk’ doesn’t make sense. Of course, this is why the zero=safety industry doesn’t want to use the word ‘risk’, it is primarily preoccupied with the outcome of safety.

As we move through the world and work in the world, there is nothing surer than things will not always go well. When Fallibility meets Risk there is always the possibility of harm, this is why Insurance is one of the oldest industries on earth. Bernstein’s book Against the Gods, The Remarkable Story of Risk, is a wonderful account of this.

The moment you hear the word ‘guarantee’ associated with risk, you know you are listening to a fraudulence and a con. Similarly, if you hear anything about fallibility-denial, going ‘beyond’ zero or some ‘secret’ about prediction, you know you are in silver-bullet con land. If you are conned by any of this, you probably deserve the dangerous outcomes of being conned.

If a message is framed in silly language that denies fallibility or promises the impossible, you ought to know you are encountering fraudulence ( Similarly, if you read about demonsing people and the emotions ( or something ‘new’ and ‘different’ that’s not much more than marketing, you need to walk away from it. Any promise of the impossible ( is nothing more than a religious cultic gimmick.

In order to work in the real world, one has to accept risk and tackle risk with eyes wide open and head above the ground. All of the spin and marketing in the world cannot cover over the basics that: the world is random and uncertain, living/being is full of volatility and ambiguity, humans and systems are fallible and, the impossible is impossible. The idea that the impossible is possible simply makes language non-sense.

The question for Safety is not about if things go wrong but about when things go wrong how do we respond?

The disposition that accepts that the unexpected brings mis-fortune, changes the way one orientes towards the unexpected (Weick). I wonder how many zero organisations purchase insurance??? The truth is, the mantra is a cultic symbol, no-one actually believes in it (

And, the more organisations use the language of ‘zero’ the less they can countenance the realities of resilience. You can’t prepare and equip people for resilience if your basic mantra for living is in denial of risk!

No wonder zero organisations like Safe Work Australia and Safe Work NSW (who both were sponsors of the recent global zero event), don’t talk about resilience in their codes of practice on psychosocial ‘hazards’. No wonder the AIHS never speaks of resilience in its so-called ‘Body of Knowledge’. When your ideology is zero and your language is about psychosocial health as a hazard, no wonder the language of risk, learning and resilience is suppressed. And if you believe that zero is a ‘science’ ( ) then you have no conceptual idea of what science is.

If you want to know what a group or organisation believes, don’t listen to the noise, listen to their silences (

If one wants to build people up in work for resilience one needs to articulate the realities of risk and learning as a part of work. The ideology of zero is the denial of such reality ( What a strange industry that is so noisy about zero and injury rates but never talks about the needs of the injured??? No wonder this industry also says so little about care and helping, the essentials for professionalism.

If you are interested in resilience and you want to understanding the nature of personhood, personality and risk then, you can register for the SPoR Convention in May ( where these two themes are featured.

If you are over all the denial and silences of the Safety industry and want to learn about an innovative a creative way to tackle risk that works ( then, why not register early.

If you want to learn methods that are practical, positive, innovative and doable ( then why not register for the Free SPoR introduction with Matt Thorne (, commencing soon.

Risk, Learning and Resilience are the continuum of life, safety is only a temporary moment ( in that journey. – Because in the end, there is no safety! (


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