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Raising risk awareness: starting small and growing fast

Managing risks is increasingly high on the agenda of organisations. Managing risks is of great value. It ensures that you can deliver quality and guarantee the safety of customers, patients, employees and visitors. 

And, not unimportantly, in this way, you ultimately secure the organisation’s survival and increase your success.

A straightforward story, but why can putting this in action sometimes seem so unmanageable? 

We’re sure anyone can name examples of where something went seriously wrong because someone was insufficiently aware of a risk and therefore created an unsafe situation. And what organisation does not breathe an exasperated sigh  when there is a severe data breach at a competing company? 

These are the times that existing risk analyses within many organisations are suddenly supplemented with a ‘new’ risk. Estimates of existing risks are also suddenly adjusted.

Human behaviour influences risk awareness more than expected

Effective risk management depends on risk awareness at all levels of the organisation. Employees must realize at the right time what the positive and negative consequences may be of their behaviour, and of matters with which they are confronted in their work. 

If this awareness is insufficient, employees do not recognize and accept risks, which can result in dangerous behaviour. 

Additionally, a lack of risk awareness may harm the risk management process itself. Because, when the input to identify and adequately evaluate risks is lacking, risks are misjudged and control measures are only marginally effective. 

This makes actively strengthening risk awareness worthwhile. 

We are happy to share several methods and insights that can help you and your organisation grow in risk awareness.

Small in size; powerful in result

Increasing awareness is not an easy task. Many organisations free up a lot of time and budget to get started. Then, the most professional and extensive programs are launched. And oftentimes with success, because this increases awareness.

At least temporarily, because once the activities stop, there is often a relapse. So, three steps forward are followed by two steps back. What a shame. 

So how do you ensure that risk awareness in your organisation is increased more efficiently and above all, permanently? 

Increase risk awareness? Work in themes!

We believe in starting small. Small but smart. The key lies in working with a theme. This has three major advantages. 

  1. Working in themes is appealing; it captures the imagination;
  2. Activities you carry out are goal-oriented
  3. Themes are well-defined, making it easy to frame the project in terms of time and place.

Can you put “working with themes” into practice? 

Are you interested in “working in themes” within your organisation? Then follow these steps:

Step 1. Choose a theme 

  1. Choose a theme that touches people – preferably together with employees;
  2. For example, ask them for their top 3 issues that they regularly worry about from a quality and safety perspective; 
  3. Look for the common thread and you will have found the topic that really interests people.

Step 2. Get going with practical activities

  1. Have colleagues report incidents over a fixed period of time, so that it becomes clear  what is going well and what could be improved; 
  2. Analyze incidents in depth so you can conclude about causes; 
  3. Introduce a funny, interactive knowledge test that allows employees to discover the extent to which they recognize risks; 
  4. Encourage an open dialogue in which colleagues can speak freely about risks and their extent; 
  5. Plenty of opportunity here!  After which, perhaps a month or two later, you can combine the insights and arrive at a set of targeted improvement actions to reduce risks. 

Communication is a must during the entire period, so make sure to continue communicating well. You will discover that, by working with themes in this way, employees will become candidly involved. 

The result? Not two but four birds with one stone

  • Issues within the chosen theme are clear.
  • Actions can be  set in motion.
  • Risk awareness is increased.
  • Colleagues become more eager to get to work on a new topic.

Herd behaviour as an opportunity

Okay, clear; working in themes works. This means you could opt for taking this route over and over again, and it would work. Taking this approach will grow awareness in your organisation slowly and surely.

But in case of success, why not take the opportunity to accelerate?  

Fortunately, you can! After all, humans exhibit herd behaviour. As individuals, we tend to adapt the behaviour of the group. A great example is people waiting in queues. Picture this; if there’s one queue in a store, and another queue is opened, we usually stand around for a while looking awkwardly at one another trying to figure who goes first. Once someone decides to take initiative, it’s only then that the rest follows suit.

 

Zenya risicobewustzijn vergroten

This principle of herd behaviour goes far. Social scientists use the terms “social contagion” and “behavioural contagion” for this phenomenon. 

 Basically, social contagion means that people simply copy other people’s behaviour. For example, think of laughing, yawning, and applauding. Think about it; when someone else yawns, we usually feel the need to yawn too, right?

That’s at a very rudimentary level of course, because “social contagion” goes way beyond that. Sometimes it may even go as far as people changing their own beliefs and opinions for the sake of aligning to the people around them. 

 

“Social contagion” is influencing our behaviour

Studies show that our behaviour concerning risk-taking is influenced by what we see in others. In our brain, risk-taking activates the area of observation and learning, but the area linked to risk assessment becomes active too. In other words, people take risks that match the level of risk they observe others taking around them. 

In short: we copy others, also when it comes to risks. In our behaviour and also in how risky we act. . It also has an impact on our judgement, on our perception of risk and ultimately it influences our risk awareness. 

Therefore, the phenomenon of ‘social contagion‘ can be the problem – it can cause unsafe behaviour. However, it is also a solution if we can use it to influence each other with positive behaviour.

 

We are going viral!

“Social contagion” in relation to risk awareness implies that we are influenced by others in taking and assessing risks, as well as in managing them. 

If we combine this insight with another phenomenon, “viral change,” something beautiful emerges. We can make risk awareness go viral if we make optimal use of this social influence on behaviour and the power of informal networks.

Want to know more about increasing risk awareness with software? Discover Zenya RISK. Feel free to get in touch with us. We are happy to help.

 

Risicobewustzijn Zenya informele leiders

 

Informal leaders are the influencers within your organisation

Every organisation has a robust informal network of people who influence each other consciously and unconsciously. We can intelligently use these connections. 

In these informal networks, there are often a small number of informal leaders. In contrast to formal leaders who have official authority, informal leaders have clout.  In addition, they have many and strong relationships within the network that allow them to retrieve and share information quickly.  

By and through their relationships, these informal leaders can accelerate change or development. They can make change or development go “viral,” so to speak. 

Therefore, increasing risk awareness and implementing changes or developments within organisations is a matter of mobilising and enthusing the informal leaders within the organisation.

Leading by example – who are your ambassadors?

Such informal leaders are effectively the ones who act as your ambassadors within the organisation. If they set an excellent example by assessing risks correctly and acting appropriately in risky situations, risk awareness within the rest of the organisation will also quickly increase. 

In short: choose a suitable theme to work on and find your ambassadors. 

Then the social game of influence and contagion does the rest. In this way, by making clever use of the human psyche, you let the risk awareness of your organisation grow rapidly. 

Want to know more about
raising risk awareness with Zenya?

Do you want to know more about how to grow risk awareness in your organisation, about working more efficiently with themes or about how to tap into the natural qualities of your informal leaders and ambassadors?