Grey Matter
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Feeling The Bang!

Published on 02/02/2015 by Paul Conway

A new regulation is to be introduced in France to ban the use of hands-free kits while driving.  I can see why this rule is being introduced but probably it is more dangerous to eat Smarties straight from the tube as you’re driving but that’s another matter (ask me about my choking story!). The question is … how do you get people to follow the rules?  It’s pretty clear by looking at how many people you see driving their car while on the phone that just having a rule doesn’t make people live by it./nbsp] As my son once said … just because we are taught French in school doesn’t mean we learn it!

There was an experiment I saw recently that took particularly bad drivers (who run red lights, put on their lipstick while driving and play games on their smartphone while at the wheel) into a simulator.  The simulator is a static real car with all the controls of a real car and all of the noises and vibrations of a real car and it is connected to an identical moving car which the simulator driver controls. The moving car is out on a private driving track.  So when the driver brakes, steers or accelerates in the simulator the real car brakes, steers and accelerates out on the track. Inside the simulator the driver sees the real world via cameras mounted on the track car.

The simulator driver, chosen for their bad habits, is not told that the real reason for their simulator test is to shock them out of their habits. After a couple of hours in the simulator when they are now feeling really comfortable a copy of the car they own is rammed into the side of the car out on the track. Inside the simulator they feel all the shock of the crash … the noise, the scream, the impact … without any harm to them because they are still in the simulator. The cars out on the track are destroyed.

The point of the experiment is to get the drivers to feel what would happen if they run a red light, for example, and have a collision.  No amount of explaining, looking at photos, or analysis of traffic statistics could have the same effect. People need to feel the bang.

At work you can’t conduct a similar high impact experiment just because someone goes out of the fire door to have a smoke, arrives a bit late or cracks inappropriate jokes (the last one is the toughest scenario especially when the jokes are funny). But how much tolerance have you got? And what do you do about it without getting all tough-guy about things that may not matter so much?  Maybe nothing but it’s the fraction-of-a-second moments of behaviour  which create the culture you work in, so there’s something to positively manage.


Paul Conway

Paul Conway

Leadership Faculty

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