Complicated Systems, Complex Systems, Emergence & Systems Thinking in Safety: Talking with Adam Johns

Complicated and Complex Image

In this recorded video discussion with English safety professional Adam Johns, we talk about two big issues in organizational performance improvement (in general) that are big concerns in occupational safety as well: systems and complexity.

Our workplaces are made up of multiple systems, which is why systems thinking is so important when you’re trying to create improvements or solve problems. We¬† introduce this issue in our Systems Thinking for Workplace Performance Improvement article and it’s also something we discuss in our ATD Human Performance Improvement Model article.

Additionally, our workplaces are complex, particularly because they are sociotechnical systems, meaning machines and humans interact. This is different than just being complicated, in the way that a machine can be complicated. That’s because even though a machine is complicated, you can predict what it will do accurately, but when you add humans (and collections of humans, such as departments or organizations or multiple organizations), things become unpredictable. This can lead to what people refer to as emergence.

I’ve been familiar with Adam Johns for some time, but when I read his article on Complicated and Complex Systems in Safety Management, I knew I wanted to talk through this stuff with him. He was gracious enough to accept, sharing his time and knowledge, and the video below is the fruit of that. Thanks to Adam!

And we hope you enjoy the discussion. Let us know your thoughts.

Note: I’ll get workin’ on adding relevant links and a transcript for this discussion shortly! Thanks for being patient with me until then.

Jeffrey Dalto

Jeffrey Dalto

Jeffrey Dalto is an Instructional Designer and the Senior Learning & Development Specialist at Convergence Training. He's worked in training/learning & development for 25 years, in safety and safety training for more than 10, is an OSHA Authorized Outreach Trainer for General Industry OSHA 10 and 30, has completed a General Industry Safety and Health Specialist Certificate from the University of Washington/Pacific Northwest OSHA Education Center and an Instructional Design certification from the Association of Talent Development (ATD), and is a member of the committee creating the upcoming ANSI/ASSP Z490.2 national standard on online environmental, health, and safety training. Jeff frequently writes for magazines related to safety, safety training, and training and frequently speaks at conferences on the same issues, including the Washington Governor's Safety and Health Conference, the Oregon Governor's Occupational Safety and Health Conference, the Wisconsin Safety Conference, the MSHA Training Resources Applied to Mining (TRAM) Conference, and others.

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