Snap, Crackle, Pop. That’s the Sound we Love to Hear

by Dr Rob Long on January 9, 2015

in Psychology of Safety and Risk,Robert Long,Simplistic Safety,Wicked Problems,Zero Harm

Snap, Crackle, Pop. That’s the Sound we Love to Hear

imageRice Krispies were first released by Kellogg in 1928, and introduced in Australia as Rice Bubbles. The breakfast cereal is made of ‘crisped’ rice (toasted rice). The marketing that accompanied the launch of Rice Bubbles was associated with the sound of crackling as the milk broke through the rice sugar pasted shells. When I was a kid we could all sing the jingle for Rice Bubbles and say the slogan for Coco Pops, ‘Just like a milk shake, only crunchie’. Amazing that 50 years later we can easily recall slogans and jingles, demonstrating the power of words and music to get into the subconscious. We may be able to recall sounds and jingles but the real issue is if the product has any real value or substance to it. The key question is: is this healthy for you?

As kids, we used to beg our parents to buy Coco Pops and we loved the taste. We used to love Rice Bubbles and of course ‘chocolate crackles’. Great for fund raising and birthday parties. Unfortunately, as with many things, there are equal and opposite competing goals associated with the trade off for fun and taste. The key question is: is this stuff good for you?

There are many products (programs and services) offered in the risk and safety sphere that remind me a lot about Rice Bubbles. On the outside there is plenty of snap, crackle and pop but scratch below the surface and there is little value, ethical goodness or substance beyond spin and jingle. So much is promised, it sounds so good but the question has to be asked: is this good for you? However, there is an even deeper question inferred by this question: how do you know if something is good or bad? On what basis can you discern if something is of value and substance or is just spin and jingle? Discerning good from bad, right from wrong and substance from spin requires wisdom, knowledge and experience. More importantly, one has to juggle competing goals and value trade offs to ask the question: is this ethical? On the outside many things look enticing and attractive but underneath play insidious values that are anti-learning, anti-human and anti-community. Programs that play out in such unethical values ought to be rejected by the risk and safety community.

Capability and competence in risk and safety requires much more than just knowing the content of the Work Health and Safety Act. Whilst it is good to obtain a diploma in Work Health and Safety, there are many experiences and forms of knowledge that a required to be a good risk and safety advisor. Simply policing legislation is not enough to make one competent in understanding and managing risk and safety. Risk and safety at a simplistic level is nothing more than Rice Bubbles risk and safety.

Rice Bubbles risk and safety unfortunately confuses the ‘sound’ of something with the substance of something. Rice Bubbles risk and safety seeks simplistic answers for complex ‘wicked’ problems and when it doesn’t get the answer it wants, it blames others for poor decisions as if leadership is like building a house out of lego blocks. Rice Bubbles risk and safety doesn’t want to ‘hear’ that risk is a ‘wicked’ problem, doesn’t want to hear that humans are fallible and that decision making is complex. It seeks to apply substance to one dimensional binary ideas that lack real substance and cannot discern real risk from attributed risk. Rice Bubbles risk and safety thinks that the ‘dumb ways to die’ campaign was successful because it got millions of hits on Youtube, despite the fact that the suicide rate increased. Rice Bubbles risk and safety thinks that an indoctrination campaign like a hazardman comic will teach kids about risk and safety despite the fact that similar strategies have failed. Rice Bubbles risk and safety thinks that ‘zero harm’ is a wonderful aspirational goal despite the fact that such language ‘primes’ failure and creates a toxic mindset for human relationships at work.

The challenge for the risk and safety professional is to humanize the process and activity of risk and safety, to ensure that people are prioritized in the practice of safety. Unethical efforts to ‘Lord’ over others and indoctrinate others simply don’t fit a model of respectful learning or the notion that ownership in risk is important. Maybe it is time the risk and safety industry changed breakfast food.

  • Mark

    You Can’t Handle The Truth.

    In your last post (My story is better than yours) you said – “The only way that people can discover things for themselves is by us asking questions” (are you assuming people are thoughtless, as the “only” way for people to discover safety is for safety people to question them?) and then you say “Maybe we have to challenge ourselves to ask more and not tell” (there is no telling and there is no listening there is consultation, read the links I posted). You say these things as if you mean it, yet you put down a man who asks questions and then you criticize him for challenging an expert who does not give direct answers. You assume that I know all the answers, yet you are telling us that we REQUIRE to use dialogue and not use autopilot! The reason we tell as a means to make people conform, is because that is all we know (this is our world). Every day of our lives we are told what to do and how to do it. Even when the world is not telling us what to do, we have people like you who are even trying to taking my writing style away from me. If rambling is my writing style, then that’s my prerogative. You are also trying to take my free right to criticize (To judge the merits and faults of, analyse and evaluate, to find truth) away and to just follow what I am told, yet you find it ok to criticize me and call me a rambler.

    You say – “People don’t do unsafe things because they are stupid, they do it because they are running on autopilot, or distracted, or rushing” so are you saying that when a FA18 pilot crashes their fighter plane or a F1 driver crashes their car or a doctor makes a mistake, that they are not thinking, rushing and or distracted? These are some of the most switched on people with great cognitive skills, maybe there is a few more than these three factors.

    Let me ask you another question because that is the only way you will learn (as you say!) Why do we have road rules? It is a pretty simple question so you should easy get it right. I mean how many times do we have to tell people not to use mobile phones while driving, not to speed etc, yet they still do knowing the consequence are very serious. So are people who use mobile phones when driving stupid? (Refer to your unsafe things)?

    This post is confusing and bias!

  • Mark

    I know Rob L has his supporters out there and would mostly assume that you are one also, so I am not going to try and argue with the super power. I am a cynic, and I do not just accept anything without question, for this is not only foolish but naïve, and a major problem of humanity.

    You talk of me giving the impression I know everything – all I have done is state what is in legislation and what I feel is happening in the real world, and I also provide what we are supposed to do and follow to make people safe (in our controlled world).

    If organisations just followed the principles outlined in legislation and other safety guidelines etc, we would not have many of the events that occur around the world, we would not need snap crackle and pop programs including psychology. All some experts are doing is renaming meanings and getting people to follow these new meanings, then when a program works everyone thinks it the new meanings.

    Yes, I ask lots of questions because people don’t give answers to facts they provide. Experts/religion just want people to listen and follow. Then when they cannot give answers, they say you just don’t want to accept what they gave or say you need to find the answers by interpreting something into something meaningful to you. Saying Pressure does not exist and does not have effects on judgement and decision making, is a prime example.

    I find it interesting you accuse me of criticism yet every time I write something some expert says it does not exist and that I am simplistic as if they know everything (but you would not see this). This site as I understand it is not a professional’s only site and people have got the right to post their opinions and ideas. If experts want to use this site to advertise their ideology to make money or log into the history records, that’s fine.

    Experts prescribe to being open to new ways thinking etc etc, yet they often prove that they are not.

    Experts tell of people over complicating everything, yet what do they do.

    People jump onto what an expert says in hope to fix a simple problem, yet these people have not even mastered or understood the simple methods first. Psychology of risk as I see it is a prime example, that my opinion.

    Why would you want to know my simple view on safety when experts have already told you the best way.

    I still do not know why people need to publish a book as a side project when there is the means to give it away for free. If you really cared and wanted to make change, you would not expect to sell it, again that is my simple opinion.

  • Robert Sams

    Mark – I really don’t get what you’re saying, so confusing. You criticise, you ask lots of questions, you give the impression you know the answers, but I can’t get to them in all your ramble.

    If you made short, succinct comments, it may be easier to understand what you are saying.

    Seems like you just like to criticise everything Dr Long has to say, but you do this by rambling. Your call.

    I don’t get what you stand for, what’s your view of health, safety and risk?


  • Mark

    The point is we have no data either way to prove or disprove.

    I agree, Dumb way to die shows how collectively simple we are, and the government campaigns that show how stupid smokers, drink drivers, speeding drivers, whatever are, are all dumb ways to die campaigns in there own right.

    In relation to the simplistic list, everything is simplistic…it those experts that make it complex.

    Or the real saying “The expert knows more and more about less and less until he knows everything about nothing.”Mahatma Gandhi.

    In relation to simple solutions to complex situations – it’s all about greed, selling simple solutions to complex issues to make money – If people are really interested in promoting their knowledge for the benefit of mankind, they give it away for free (Especially in this day and age where we have the technology and means to do so), not write a simple paper book about a complex ideology that requires years of learning and understanding to become apt. People and groups make things more complicated because we cannot get the basic stuff right (in safety we cannot even communicate well). Most books today are just full of simple extracts referencing from other books to fill the pages. If you are that keen to learn, read the real books or Google search free papers.

    Here is a good video on experts that no nothing I found yon the weekend. (I really like the comments at about 33:50)

    The more experts I talk to, the more I realise they are closed minded and bound by their own beliefs based from books. (but I am no expert guru either and very simplistic in my thinking).

    To ensure we don’t have confirmation bias, and academic once wrote these points.

    • Trying to change hearts and minds to make better sense of risk is challenging.
    • People tend to want a smooth process, they don’t want to stop and entertain doubt about their own judgements.

    So we require a few essentials;

    • Leaders need to always entertain multiple options, there is no one way
    • Leaders entertain doubt and invite mavericks into the leadership team who contribute disconcerting questions into the mix, agreement in leadership is rarely a good thing
    • Leaders need to engage contrary analysis
    • Leaders don’t accept the advice of experts without challenge
    • Leaders promote a learning organisational culture where mistakes are not severely punished

    The problem here is that I have tried many times to think outside the square and ask questions from leaders, but this list was disproven by close mindedness. The curse of knowledge is a cognitive bias according to which better-informed people find it extremely difficult to think about problems from the perspective of lesser-informed people.

    The real issue with risk is Pressure, and unfortunately, this is not going away anytime soon, that is of course unless psychology can somehow rid greed from those who want.

    Weick places an emphasis on face‐to‐face communication for sense making (simple), but it is often least preferred by managers because of the time demands (complex).

  • Wynand

    Mark, If I may be so bold as to attempt to answer on Rob’s behalf (and thereby only saying how I understood the point he made regarding “Dumb ways to die”), this is what I made of it: The campaign could only have been a success if the rates dropped. The rates did not drop (in fact it increased), hence there cannot be proof that the campaign was a success. (The increase in rates are not explained – it could be any of many reasons, including normal fluctuations). I did not see Rob making any references to the “Dumb ways to die” campaign being causal in increasing the rates, only in failing to decrease the rates.

    I also think Schneidman’s “list” as presented is oversimplified. Some suicides are not situational, and these characteristics appear to be more related to situational suicides. (This is just my observation, since I am not a psychology expert, nor am I an expert on suicide.)

    One last remark, if I may. Rob has made numerous references to the fact that there is danger in trying to apply simple solutions to complex situations. In fact, as I understand his reasoning, there are just too many solutions that appear good on the surface, but not only lacks substance when scrutinised, but can be downright harmful. People like me appreciate the short, interpreted discussions to lead our train of thought or to trigger us to go and read further without having to spend the time to do all the research. The latter would not be consistent with the format of a discussion group.

  • Mark

    Can you please tell me where you got your facts from for current suicide rates (2012-2013), and how this “Dumb Ways to Die” song increased these suicides rates and for how long did this song have an impact (there must a peak that has tapped off)? I am interested at looking at how one song of no real meaning can increase rates when other songs with far more meanings could do more damage.

    ABS does release final stats for at least for 2 years (stats just release in 2013 are up to the year 2011), and as this song was done in late 2012.

    Stats go up and down, and it would be complicated to establish exacting reasoning’s of suicide, particularly in relation to psychological issues that cause suicides. These fluctuations would be hard to contribute to any one single causal factor such as a song.

    We could say that in 2013, that it was increased stresses of living (lots of factors here) and the lowering of quality of living for many that increased the rate. Maybe even the higher unemployment rates and knowing that the job market is getting worse (academically calculated as high as 15%, not the low 5% spread around).

    I know people who have commit suicide (2 gunshots to the head, 1 jumped off a railway bridge, and two hung themselves..both of these people were people you would not think fit the stereotypical) so I am not saying anything here out of disrespect. Saying that this particular song (amongst many more psychological damaging songs out there that have deeper melancholic meanings) increased suicides rates I feel is misleading facts to make a point. People who commit suicide have been suffering in some way for a period of time.

    Psychologist, Edwin Shneidman, described ten characteristics that are common with suicide.

    -Constriction is the cognitive state.
    -Oblivion is the goal: the cessation of consciousness.
    -Psychological pain is the stimulus.
    -Purpose is to seek a solution.
    -Intention is communicated interpersonally beforehand.
    -Needs are frustrated. Getting out – escaping – is the desired action.
    -Overriding emotion is hopelessness-helplessness.
    -Underlying attitude is ambivalence.
    -Time-worn coping patterns are again employed.

    2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 (d) 2007 (d) 2008 (d) 2009 (d) 2010 (d)
    rate rate rate rate rate rate rate rate rate rate
    Males 20.3 18.8 17.7 16.8 16.5 15.8 13.9 17.2 16.0 16.4
    Females 5.3 5.0 4.7 4.3 4.3 4.7 4.0 4.7 4.8 4.8

  • Mark

    Maybe Fruit Loops would be a good change…no, I can still hear the Snap, Crackle and Pop.

    Below is a article out of a local newspaper this week that will provide justification for running trivial sweet tooth Snap, Crackle and Pop safety programs promoted from leaders. I think it will provide justification, well, this sort of thing has not worked in the past so….maybe it could now!…More Tax payer funded trivial jargon that is a joke! Maybe next year we could have messages printed on mint wrappers (because you always have to wait for your car), or send a text message (not to be read while driving) or how about adding a message to the invoice (right next to the over priced service fee)

    What I like is the term CONFRONTING that is written in big text to really make a bold starting point to the story as if all the other blood and guts TV advertising campaigns and the big bold road signs you see everywhere telling everyone how stupid people are and that they are bloody idiots for doing stupid things, stupid bloody idiots they are, and the constant prime time TV news stories and newspaper articles about road fatalities where a cop always says at the end “people need to concentrate, and take driving more seriously”.

    I am not sure at what age older drivers are, but by this article, old seems to be around 44 years of age, this being an median, old could be between 17 – 75 odd (funny that). For these stupid old drivers that just don’t get it, I really hope this message gets through into your think sculls and that you read this message before driving.

    Sarcastically serious though, if the government wants to stop the death rate rising on our roads, they need to ban all entertainment and technology in cars, road advertising material (particularly the sexy girl ones), allow kids in the back seat to be tied up with tape over their mouths, or allow them to be put into the boot so the parent is not distracted, make alcohol levels -ZERO, have all drivers renew their license each year to ensure they are not allowing for bad habits to overrule the strict rules we are to adhere to by law, that were instilled into us when we had our learners, make cars speed limited (that be it by GPS so if the speed zone says 60, that is all the car can do, have all drivers keep a diary so they don’t drive fatigued (just like truckies), have all drivers go through a psychiatric assessments each year, ban radio music, I could go on and on with this dribble…but I am hungry and like fruit loops.

    Anyway, if you are an older driver and you don’t get one of these important message key rings, PLEASE, I beg you, for the sake of your life and that of others, get a big fat red marker pen and write these words “Distracted drivers die” in your car somewhere (not on the glass though, as it might limit your vision and be illegal), because it may just save your life…oh…and don’t read it while driving as it may cause an accident by distraction.

    Such is the Snap, Crackle and Pop world we live in hey!



    A CONFRONTING but important message will be imparted on motorists who take their vehicles for a service at a range of Toowoomba mechanics. Police have distributed 5000 key tags in the hope the message “distracted drivers die” will get through to older motorists.
    The yellow tags will be attached to keys before they are handed back to drivers who drop their cars off for a service or repairs. Toowoomba City Patrol Group officer Inspector Mark Wheeler said the initiative came after figures revealed 30 people died on Darling Downs roads in 2013. It was 12 people more than in 2012.
    He said inattention was a contributing factor to about half of last year’s deaths. “We analysed all of the fatalities and we found the median age of the at-fault driver was 44,” Insp. Wheeler said. He hoped the tags would prompt drivers to avoid distractions including using mobile phones, satellite navigation systems and car stereos while on the road. The tags have been distributed to Southern Cross Ford, Toowoomba Toyota and Toowoomba Holden.

  • Mark

    The problem with this point of view is that we use the term “safety” as an overarching name for a multitude of roles a safety person has to know, roles that are added to another to provide a multiple of expertise; be it problematically added.

    Safety people are environment experts, regulatory experts, audit experts, first aid experts, emergency experts, computer and program experts, data entry experts, bridging document experts, teaching experts, conflict resolution experts, incident investigator experts, risk management experts, and much much more. Each one of these topics requires a “time or period of learning” be it simple or complex (a Diploma in safety is now a quick week long course, this shows the importance placed protecting people with safety when it takes 3 days to learn CPR and putting on band aids). A safety person is forced to use simple learning due to costs and other pressures. More complex learning is left to one’s own devices and passion outside of working hrs, and in most cases, family and living overrides this option as it should. The flip side here to this passion based learning is; what to do with such knowledge and practicable solutions to wicked problems as a sole agent that has no control.

    There are also many other requirements that safety people are to be exceptional in, changing culture, reading the mind, looking into the future, preventing all accidents, and ensuring everyone gets home the same way they arrived at work.

    The issue is not all that of safety people.

    Rice bubble safety (zero harm program in QLD) is mostly driven from the top (government), and safety people have to eat it and then attempt to add bananas and oats to make it more healthy. But adding these extra healthy toppings such as bananas and oats cost more money and time, and are consequently banned from future purchases and left of expenditure costing sheets. So safety people end up going back eating noisy crap that is not good for the body and enforcing systems developed by “bureaucracy”.

    If we want to start improving the “lord safety people” who don’t understand human psychology, we need to start focusing our efforts towards getting the top of society taking ownership and focusing on the younger generations.

    I think schooling is where basic psychology should be getting taught (it is such an important topic), this is where change can be instigated and made part of our culture, maybe instead of teaching our kids the art of being better than everyone else through points, scoring and by following rules, teach kids that we are all human beings and that we all need to be respected equally and treated as non-perfect soles as we are (I should join a beauty pageant).

    Look at the wicked problem of bullying in our schools, after all these years we are just starting to address this issue. Maybe in 15 years or so, bullying in our culture may be mitigated by what kids learn at school about ourselves (mum, dad, today I learnt that our minds have a hard time making rational choices). Maybe it won’t change a thing because human instinct is a very powerful controller of spirit. Would psychology help with bullying, I would think yes. Do we care enough to make change, probably not.

    By trying to implement change by starting from the bottom (or middle) and trying to get safety people to influence change and become more ethical that what is allowed for is fanciful. All change and leadership should be driven from the top or programmed into us when young. Safety people are not the decision makes of society or organisation.

    Maybe it’s time the risk and safety industry is given a better healthier choice of breakfast food, something like fiberplus so it can be more regular.

    The challenge is to try and persuade the government to standardise psychology into the culture in which it is lacking, that being our culture.

    The challenge is to get leaders of an organisation to ensure that people are prioritised in the practice of safety (safety first), instead of telling people to ignore, hide, forget events and push on so not as to stop production.

    But as we all know Deming quote – If safety were truly your number one priority you would close your doors and mothball your business. Your number one priority should always be the continued survival of your business. Anyone who tells you different is either a liar or a fool.

    So it appears we are in a bit of a pickle!

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