Bloomberg released an article last month that the bee population is recovering after years of decline. Interestingly, bees are social animals, just like we are. One advantage to bees being social and living in hives is they can share defensive duties including protection of the hive, brood (baby bees for lack of a better term), and food. Bees can sting, give audio warnings, create barriers, and even using their wings to create air flow that keeps attackers out of the hive. Bees can separate defensive duties amongst themselves and they follow a sequence of events when responding to a threat to the hive.
When a situation develops that could require hive defense, bees perceive the threat, orient themselves to the threat, ID the threat, alert and recruit others, then decide what to do. Sounds a lot like risk perception and management, doesn’t it?
So, what does this have to do with human behavior and safety?
If we look at human beings as social animals, it opens up a lens through which we can view the value of human interaction and the need for human beings to feel like they belong. This drive to belong to an in-group that provides people with a feeling of esteem is very powerful and easily overcomes what is written in a policy manual. People will act the way they think the group expects them to act in a given situation. Their perception may be wrong, but to them, it is entirely right.
The identities people adopt as part of group-belonging provides them with the lens they look through as they decide what they are going to do in a situation. When we are at work, hanging out with friends, or spending time with our families, our decisions are impacted by the role we are supposed to play. The context of the situation is important, but equally or even more important is the identity we are using in that particular situation. What I do when accomplishing a task at work may or may not be what I do when I accomplish a similar task at home or when working with a group I don’t normally work with.
Recognizing that outcomes are the product of the identities that make up a person’s existence can help us when we are trying to figure out how to change behavior, culture, or any other number of concepts that are steeped in human behavior. I may give two groups the same training and same equipment, but how they do the job can differ based on how they identify and, more importantly, the behaviors that are expected of that identity.