Embracing Innovation: Moving Beyond Best Practices in Safety
Updated: Jul 15
In the pursuit of operational excellence, organizations often seek to adopt best practices that promise efficiency and effectiveness. While best practices have their merits, blindly following them can hinder innovation and limit fresh approaches. As safety consultants, our goal should be to foster a culture of collaborative innovation and continuous improvement within organizations. In this article, we explore the importance of questioning best practices, embracing innovation, and redefining our approach to safety excellence.
Best practices are methods or processes that have proven to be effective in achieving specific goals. However, we must recognize that time and progress march on. Practices that were once considered best may now be commonplace in our industries. Simply adopting existing best practices without critically evaluating their relevance and continuous improvement potential can lead to stagnation and average performance.
Peter Drucker wisely noted that success renders the very behaviors that achieved it obsolete. In today's fiercely competitive market, safety performance is a competitive advantage. Organizations must strive for continuous improvement and innovative approaches to elevate safety to new heights. Defining safety as the absence of accidents or incidents is no longer sufficient. It's time to shift our focus to proactive efforts that control risk exposure and yield positive outcomes.
Measuring safety by the lack of negative outcomes fails to capture the full picture. Safety should be defined as the combination of environmental and behavioral approaches that reduce or eliminate exposure to risk. We must acknowledge that eliminating all risk exposure is an unrealistic goal. By redefining safety in this way, we shift our mindset towards actively managing risk and continuously improving our safety practices.
Even the most transformational safety efforts will eventually reach a point of diminishing returns. However, we must not become complacent.
We must persist in our pursuit of excellence. As Leo Burnett said, "When you reach for the stars, you may not quite get one, but you won't come up with a handful of mud, either."
Safety is too critical to settle for mediocrity. We must keep experimenting, trying new methods, and learning from failures.
Franklin D. Roosevelt's words still ring true today: "The country needs bold, persistent experimentation." We must internalize this philosophy in the realm of safety. Rather than accepting practices as the ultimate solution, we must continuously seek improvement. By fostering a culture of innovation, we invite others to challenge our practices and contribute to making them better.
As safety consultants, our role extends beyond blindly adopting best practices. We must foster a culture of collaborative innovation and continuous improvement. By questioning established practices, embracing innovation, and redefining safety excellence, we can break free from the limitations of average performance and strive for sustainable excellence. Let us always remember that our search for better safety practices is a never-ending journey. Together, we can shape a future where safety thrives through continuous learning and innovation.