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The Human Risk Podcast

Author: Human Risk

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People are often described as the largest asset in most organisations. They are also the biggest single cause of risk. This podcast explores the topic of 'human risk', or "the risk of people doing things they shouldn't or not doing things they should", and examines how behavioural science can help us mitigate it. It also looks at 'human reward', or "how to get the most out of people". When we manage human risk, we often stifle human reward. Equally, when we unleash human reward, we often inadvertently increase human risk.
143 Episodes
How do human factors influence an inherently risky activity like scuba diving?That’s what my guest on this episode, Gareth Lock explores in his work as the founder of The Human Diver — a company that specialises in teaching the diving community about human factors.Whether you’ve ever been diving or not, it's fairly obvious that it’s an activity, that comes with a degree of inherent risk. After all, It involves getting into an environment that requires us to use specialist equipment because being underwater impacts our ability to breathe naturally and diminishes the use of some of our senses. It also exposes us to some potentially dangerous conditions - temperature, currents and air pressure for starters. Not to mention the sea creatures we might come across, who aren’t necessarily always going to welcome our intrusion into their world.As Gareth explains in our discussion, those dynamics can be made far worse by humans. Most accidents and incidents in diving arent down to technical failures, rather they are down to complacency, breakdowns in communication, poor decision-making, a lack of situational awareness or ineffective teamwork and/or leadership.To find out more about:Gareth - Human Diver - Pressure, Gareth’s book -

The Human Factors in Diving Conference - our discussion, we also refer to Tim Harford. You can hear the episode of this podcast featuring Tim here: interested in hearing more about Human Factors will enjoy this episode of the show featuring Neil Clark:
Why might judges in the same Court give vastly different sentences for the same crime? The answer is noise. When experts who assess the same situation come to very different conclusions for no good reason, we risk bad outcomes.On this episode, I’m speaking with Professor Olivier Sibony, who is the co-author — along with Professors Daniel Kahneman and Cass Sunstein — of Noise: a flaw in human judgement.In our discussion, he explains what noise is, why it matters and what we can do to mitigate it.He also shares how this stellar line-up of authors came together.Olivier also helps me understand why a commonly adopted approach of using forced distribution for employee performance evaluations, which I have always found to be a bad idea, is…a really bad idea!Olivier has been on the show before. You’ll find that episode here: To find out more about Olivier, his research and his previous book ‘You’re About To Make A Terrible Mistake’ visit his website: more on Noise, the book see: read a 2016 article on Noise by Daniel Kahneman:
How can we manage risk in an increasingly complex world?My guest on this episode, Richard Fenning, has spent three decades advising multinational companies on geopolitics and security crises. He’s been involved in helping to manage situations involving kidnappings, terrorist attacks, coups d’etat, corruption scandals, cyber-attacks, earthquakes and hurricanes in places ranging from Iraq and Russia to Colombia and Nigeria. Richard is the former CEO of Control Risks ( a global consultancy that specialises in “helping businesses out of tight spots in difficult countries”. And of course when companies get into tight spots - and indeed when countries are ‘difficult’ - that’s usually because there are humans creating the tight spots or making the countries difficult. A perfect example of human risk in action.Richard has just written a book called “What On Earth Can Go Wrong - tales from the risk business” in which he shares stories from his time in the field. You can find out more about that here: our discussion, we explore how Richard came to work in this field - after all, it’s not something most of us would grow up thinking of as a career and what his experience has taught him about managing risk. Professionally and personally.To learn more about Richard’s work visit:
How can we make better connections when we're on virtual calls and webinars? My guest on this episode, Dr Nick Morgan is a speaking coach and writer who helps people to find their voice in a physical and virtual world. For personal reasons, that he explains on the episode, Nick is on a mission to help people have better interactions with others. To find out more about his business visit's book "Can You Hear Me? How to connect with people in a virtual world" was described by Harvard Business Review (who area the publisher!) as “your essential communications manual for twenty first century work”. I have to agree. You can find out more about it here: been forced to pivot my Human Risk business ( from being mostly 'face to face' with some virtual work, into an entirely virtual business, I was looking for ways that I could learn to get better at my online interactions. Nick's book — which was published in 2018 — provided many answers and helped me to adapt. In our discussion, we explore Nick's story and what he's discovered in looking at how we interact. In case you’re wondering what the human risk angle is here, let me explain. Since we’re required - and even when we’re not required, will probably want - to do more virtual communication than ever before, it’s important we become good at the skills we need in order to do so. As you’ll hear from Nick, those aren’t the same skills we need to communicate in person. If we don’t master these skills, then we risk being misunderstood and we risk misunderstanding others. As we know, misunderstandings can lead to conflict, confusion and even chaos. So, if we want to avoid being part of human risk in action - or indeed if we’re tasked with managing it and want to help others avoid it - understanding how we can better communicate in a virtual world is a must-have, not a nice to have. It's a subject I've covered before on the show and if you're interested in this area, I recommend the following episodes:Hannah Thomas Uose on Zoom Trauma — Elizabeth Stokoe on Conversations — Levy on Influence —
If we want to mitigate human risk, we need to engage the humans that might crystallise it. But how can we do that effectively?My guests, Lasse Frost and Jacob Danelund have been working on this challenge for some time. Their focus is on engaging target audiences, using techniques that range from gamification — turning something into a game — to story-telling, the natural way we all learn as children. Lasse and Jacob both work for Implement Consulting, a firm based in Denmark, that as you’ll hear, brings a very Danish way of looking at this challenge. I came across Implement when they were launching Complayance - a combination of the ‘Compliance and ‘play’ - a digital platform that delivers Compliance training through a compelling gaming interface.Lasse and Jakob aren’t just designers, they’re also podcasters hosting a show called The Human Firewall. In the episode, we explore why traditional approaches to the challenge of engaging people, sometimes don’t work and what more effective ones might be.Topics we discuss, include:Shadow IT 👉 story of Cassandra from Greek mythology 👉 Human Firewall podcast 👉 Luca Dellanna 👉 has appeared twice on the Human Risk podcast. You can hear him talking about Ergodicity on this episode 👉 and COVID & Multiplicative Dynamics on this episode 👉, the gamified compliance training platform that Implement Consulting, Jakob and Lasse's company Implement consulting has developed 👉 more on Implement, visit 👉https://implementconsultinggroup.comThe origins of the phrase 'hocus pocus' 👉 - General Data Protection Regulation - 👉 - the following links may offend some readers/listeners, so view at your own peril and on a personal, not work device.The Human Centipede horror movie 👉 Dillermand, a children's TV show with an adult them 👉
What does the word 'compliance' mean? On the face of it, we've all had experience of it under COVID as governments have introduced rules to influence our behaviour to stop the spread of the virus. But its influence is far broader than that, with applications ranging from corporate environments to the medical profession. It's even become an industry in its own right, complete with its own professional organizations and creating an ever-growing stream of jobs. As a result, the term has various meanings and academic studies looking at how it influences human decision-making have often been undertaken in siloes. If we want to understand what compliance means and how its objectives can be more effectively delivered, we need to look across the spectrum of applications.My guests on this episode, Professors Benjamin van Rooij and Danny Sokol, are the co-authors of a new book called The Cambridge Handbook of Compliance which seeks to meet this challenge. The Handbook takes a broad approach and explores the idea of compliance as being the interaction between rules and behaviour. Using this framing, it sets out to deliver a comprehensive understanding of what compliance is and what mechanisms and interventions are used in its service. By exploring different contexts and ideas, the Handbook explains what compliance is and provides a guide to how its objectives can be more effectively delivered. In our discussion, which was originally filmed as a video that we’ll be sharing as clips on social media, Benjamin and Danny explain why they wrote the book and what they hope to achieve and highlight some of the key themes it covers. By understanding what compliance is, and how its objectives can be more effectively met, we can adopt what Danny and Benjamin call Compliance 2.0.They also reveal their favourite or least favourite rule!Not only are Danny and Benjamin engaging guests, but their insights will be of interest to those working in compliance and those of us who are subject to compliance requirements. In other words, all of us! For more on The Cambridge Handbook of Compliance 👉 download the Introductory Chapter of the Handbook for free 👉 find out more about Benjamin and his research: 👉👉 find out more about Danny and his research:👉👉 hear Benjamin's previous appearances on the podcast:On his book 'The Behavioural Code' 👉 his research into COVID Compliance 👉
Why is Peloton - a company that sells bikes that allow you to take on-demand and live classes at home - so successful? With a Net Promoter Score of 94 (that's 94% of customers who would recommend it to someone else), there must be a psychological explanation. That's what my guest Lisa Richardson has researched as part of her psychology masters.I'm interested in this because I've recently joined Peloton and absolutely love the product. I didn't think I would since I'd previously viewed it as a bit of a cult. The kind of people who had bought it, seemed to be incredibly fanatical and I didn't think that would be me. Yet it is. And this intrigued me. So I wanted to know more. Not just to answer my own curiosity about what had driven me to be so committed to an activity, I would never have contemplated doing in a gym, let alone at home. But also, because I think there are clues there about how we might persuade people to do things they're not naturally drawn to do - like comply with Compliance requirements at work.So whether you're an existing Peloton fan, you really don't understand what the fuss is about, have never heard of it, or as a cycling fundamentalist, think it's a terrible watering down of what cycling should be, this show has something for you. Lisa joins me to tell me what she discovered in her research. And what she shares has real implications for managing human risk.To read an article Lisa wrote about her research: can read Lisa's research "Peloton as a Facilitator of Hope: Pathways to Initiate and Sustain Behaviors that Enhance Well-being" here: find out more about Peloton, visit their website:
Jon Levy on Influence

Jon Levy on Influence


How can we create better connections with other people to help us meet our objectives? On this episode, I’m speaking to a Behavioural Scientist that was introduced to me by my good friends Tim Houlihan and Kurt Nelson, hosts of the Behavioral Grooves podcast. If you’re not familiar with their show, do check it out - reason I mention that is because it's highly relevant to the topic I’m going to be covering on this episode. That topic is influence and the ways in which human connection, trust and community can help us meet our personal objectives. My guest Jon Levy is a Behavioural Scientist who has just written a book called 'You’re Invited: The Art & Science of Cultivating Influence'. In it, he explores the factors that allow us to build connections with others and how we can make those work in our favour. By following simple steps – and by adopting behaviours that might at first seem counter-intuitive - we can develop much more effective relationships with others. Jon knows what he’s talking about. More than a decade ago, he founded The Influencers Dinner, a secret dining experience for industry leaders ranging from Nobel laureates, Olympians, celebrities, and executives, to artists and musicians. It’s got a particular quirk that Jon explains in our discussion.As you’ll hear from the opening, Jon is a lot of fun and the conversation took us to some amazingly unexpected places. If you’re at all curious about what builds a connection with people, then you’re going to learn a lot. If you’re not, then you’re going to learn why you absolutely should be. To find our more about Jon and 'You're Invited' and see his excellent TED Talk visit And remember, when it comes to this podcast and reading Jon's book: You're Invited.
What does MTV have to do with fighting HIV? My guest on this episode Professor Eliana La Ferrara of Bocconi University in Milan knows the answer and she joins me to tell me more about her work as a development economist. Her specialism is in applied work, meaning that she collects and analyses data, mostly from families or individuals in poor or disadvantaged locations. And she tries to understand from this data, which policies might be effective in fighting poverty.In our discussion, we explore how Eliana became interested in researching the use of TV “edutainment” to change attitudes and behaviours in developing countries. That led her to work with colleagues from the World Bank and MIT, on a study of how MTV Shuga, a television series shown in Nigeria, might change knowledge and attitudes towards HIV and risky sexual behaviour. The good news is that it is extremely effective. Why, how and the lessons we can learn from that, is what Eliana explains to me on the show.You can find the World Bank sponsored research paper Eliana refers to here: more on Eliana and her area of research:
On this episode, I'm tackling two seemingly unrelated topics: how regulators use Behavioural Science & Depolarization. What combines the two is my guest Alex Chesterfield. She's a Behavioural Scientist that has worked inside a regulator, looking at the effectiveness of regulation on consumer behaviour and is the co-founder of something called The Depolarization Project.In the first half of our discussion, Alex talks to me about her time at the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), one of the UK's financial services regulators. While she was there, she deployed Behavioural Science in the service of regulation, asking the simple question as to whether rules that were designed to deliver a particular outcome — most obviously, in protecting consumers — was actually having the desired impact. We discuss the challenges faced in doing this and what lessons Alex learned from her time there.In the second part of the discussion, we explore The Depolarization Project, which explores the idea of disagreement and promotes thought about the things that divide us. Alex explains how the project came about and talks about the book and podcast that has come from their work. To find out more about Behavioural Science at the FCA, visit learn more about The Depolarization Project and the associated podcast Changed My Mind, visit:
Why, when solving problems, do we tend towards addition, rather than subtraction? Not in a mathematical sense, but rather in terms of how we think about things? That's what my guest on this episode Dr Leidy Klotz, has been exploring in some research and it forms the subject of his new book Subtract: The Untapped Science of Less.Having had an interest in the subject, Leidy observed how his son Ezra approached a problem they faced while building a Lego model together. You can hear about that in the episode. It prompted Leidy to explore why our natural tendencies drive us to pile on “to-dos” but not to consider “stop-doings.” We create incentives for good behaviour but don’t get rid of obstacles to it. We collect new and improved ideas but don’t prune the outdated ones. Every day, across challenges big and small, we neglect a basic way to make things better: we don’t subtract.It's highly relevant to human risk because if we're only looking at additive solutions, we're likely to miss subtractive ones, making our decision-making poorer as a result. And if you're in a profession like Compliance, you'll know all about how much easier it is to add rules, controls and policies, than it is to remove them. THe same applies to Regulators, Lawyers and a host of other jobs. So whether you're listening to discover better ways of improving your personal life, or for work, you'll enjoy this conversation.Leidy is the Copenhaver Associate Professor at the University of Virginia. His research is filling in underexplored overlaps between engineering and behavioral science, in pursuit of more sustainable built environment systems. He is also a former professional football (soccer) player, something I discussed with him on the show.To find out more about Leidy & Subtract: learn more about Leidy's research on Subtraction, I recommend: see the YouTube video he refers to:
Why do we have arguments & why might they actually be a good thing?That's what my guest, Ian Leslie, explores in his new book Conflicted: Why Arguments Are Tearing Us Apart and How They Can Bring Us Together. In it, he explains how conflict is the secret of happy relationships, the way companies can build collaborative cultures and what lies behind some of the greatest scientific and creative breakthroughs.Ian’s first career was in advertising, as a creative strategist for some of the world’s biggest brands, at ad agencies in London and New York. Nowadays he’s a writer and author of acclaimed books on human behaviour. He’s also got a wonderful newsletter - details below.To find out more about Ian, visit his website - more on Conflicted see - subscribe to Ian's excellent newsletter The Ruffian -
What are companies here to do? Make profit? Or is there something more? That's what my guest on this episode, John Rosling, is here to help me find out.On previous episodes, I've explored the idea that companies don't always get the best out of their employees, and that a lot of human risk crystallises within organisations, because of the disconnect between individual priorities and the stated organisational priorities.John is the CEO of Contexis, a company that helps large organizations become more effective and productive. Their passion is around purpose in business and how companies can measure it. John's view is that if you get organisational purpose right, then you can drive human productivity, human happiness and organisational effectiveness. By implication, therefore, also reduce human risk.In a career spanning over 30 years, John has worked at large companies such as Unilever and Diageo, as well as smaller startups. In our discussion, we explore what Purpose is, why it matters and what we can do to ensure organizations have it.For more on John & Contexis 👉
How is our perception of risk impacted by ethical dynamics? That's what I'm exploring on this episode with my guest Dr Cailin O'Connor.She's the co-author of a recent draft research paper that highlights some interesting findings in relation to the risk perception of COVID. The paper explains that research subjects thought that people were less at risk of COVID infection when engaged in morally good actions, and more likely to catch COVID while doing morally bad things. In other words, people’s risk judgments are systematically skewed. Cailin is a philosopher of biology and behavioral sciences, philosopher of science, and evolutionary game theorist. She’s an Associate Professor in the Department of Logic and Philosophy of Science and a member of the Institute for Mathematical Behavioral Science at UC Irvine.On this episode, I speak to Cailin about the COVID research, before moving on to look at two other areas of her work. We explore previous work she’s done on Misinformation and some future work she’s interested in exploring around how healthcare risks are communicated. For reasons she explains, she’s got a personal interest in it.To read the Twitter thread that drew my attention to the paper:'ll find the research pre-print here: more on Cailin and her areas of research:'s co-authored book on Misinformation, called The Misinformation Age:
This episode is the second half of a discussion between Paul Craven & Gerald Ashley. If you haven't listened to the first half (🎧 👉 then I highly recommend you do so, though the episode does work on a standalone basis.On this episode, Paul & Gerald discuss:Ergodicity - hear my previous guest Luca Dellanna on this 🎧 👉 Pearson on Russian Roulette - Allen Paulos - Lab - Physicist Per Bak - - Ridley -, On The Good Life - Simon - Marshall, Prisoners of Geography - find out more about my two guestsGerald: episodes of this show featuring Gerald and Paul:Gerald - & Rory Sutherland Part One - & Rory Sutherland Part Two - -
What do Statistics, Spreadsheets & Scam Artists have in common? They're all topics that my guests on this episode, Gerald Ashley & Paul Craven discuss as they explore how we make decisions. Both Gerald and Paul have previously appeared on the show (links below) - Gerald as an individual and a 'head to head' with Rory Sutherland and Paul as an individual guest. Since the episode with Gerald and Rory, proved to be so popular, I thought I'd invite Gerald and Paul onto the show together. This episode forms Part One of their discussion.Gerald specialises in Business Risk and Decision Making. His work concentrates on trying to understand decision making, risk-taking and human behaviour, in the face of uncertainty.Paul is an expert in behavioural science, decision making, investment and psychology, applying the inner operations of the mind to the economic worldSome of the topics, Gerald and Paul discuss include:- Kasparov vs Deep Blue Chess match: Gerd Gigerenzer, a researcher and author on risk: Herbert Simon on Satisficing: 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy', a book (and movie & TV series) by John LeCarre: Frank Abagnale's 'Catch Me If You Can' (also a movie): Richard Littlejohn: The Bavelas Experiments: find out more about my two guestsGerald: episodes of this show featuring Gerald and Paul:Gerald - & Rory Sutherland Part One - & Rory Sutherland Part Two - -
Why are many of the laws & regulations that are put in place, either ineffective or counter-productive? How can we make them more effective?That's the question that my guest on this episode, Professor Benjamin van Rooij of Amsterdam University, explores in a new book he's co-authored with Professor Adam Fine. The book isn't out until later this year, but Benjamin kindly agreed to join me to tell me more about it.Benjamin first appeared on the show last year, looking at COVID Compliance — exploring the effectiveness of government attempts to influence our behaviour. You'll find that episode here: 👉 this episode, we catch up on his COVID research and then discuss his new book The Behavioural Code. You can find out more about that here 👉 our discussion, Benjamin highlights some of the ways in which the law influences us in ways we might not realise and explores how some traditional ideas about how we can get people to behave in a particular way are flawed - they either don't work or are counter-productive.What he has to say is fascinating for people whose job involves influencing others — so Compliance, Legal, Audit, HR, Comms — but also for each of us as citizens. With a better understanding of what works from a legal perspective, we can make smarter decisions about who we vote for.To learn more about Benjamin's work, visit his website 👉 can also find him on Twitter:
How can companies be better at managing the strategic risks they face in an uncertain world?This episode is part two of my discussion with Hans Læssøe on Strategic Risk. If you haven’t yet listened to Part 1 👉 - then I recommend that you do that first.Having explored how Hans’ career evolved in Part 1 of our discussion, in this episode we look in more detail at the techniques and principles which Hans uses in his work. Hans now works as an independent risk consultant and trainer. You can find out more about his work 👉
How can companies be better at managing the strategic risks they face in an uncertain world? My guest on this episode Hans Læssøe, spent over 35 years working for Lego. He held a variety of roles within the company, culminating in being responsible for developing and running Lego’s Strategic Risk Management program. In other words, helping Lego Senior Management to better understand and mitigate the risks they face on a strategic level — the things that could derail their ability to deliver those little bricks into our hands and keep themselves in business.In this, Part One of our discussion — Part Two is in the next episode of the podcast —we explore how Hans came to work at Lego and head the risk function. He also explains how he approaches uncertainty and the key techniques that can be deployed to manage Strategic Risk. Hans now works as an independent risk consultant and trainer. You can find out more about his work 👉
What is Clubhouse and why should you care? Clubhouse is a new(wish!) social media network that is focused on live audio content. The audio element isn’t the only thing that differentiates Clubhouse from other networks. It also offers a very different user experience - one that relies heavily on Behavioural Science. As an active user of Clubhouse, for professional and personal reasons, I’m fascinated by the opportunities it offers and the BeSci that’s been used to drive the user experience. Even if you’re not a user of social media, you’ll be aware of the impact it is having on human decision-making. In a previous episode, I spoke with Evelyn Gosnell and Lindsay Juarez - two behavioural Scientists who helped one social media network, TikTok, to limit the spread of unverified information. You can hear that 🎧 👉 this episode, I'm joined by Dr Ali Fenwick who has just published a book on Clubhouse called “Everything you need to know about Clubhouse: What is it, why should you care, and how to get started?: The Ultimate Guide”. It’s a user guide, a behavioural analysis of how it works and a competitor analysis that explores how it is positioned against the other platforms. You can find a link to that here 👉 It’s a user guide, a behavioural analysis of how it works and a competitor analysis that explores how it is positioned against the other platforms.Ali is Professor of Organizational Behavior and Innovation at Hult Business School, where his research focuses on the behavioural foundations of organizations and management and explores how psychological interventions can be applied within the (digital) workplace to increase employee well-being and organizational performance. He’s also a Behavioural Science practitioner working with business, education, government & NGOs.To find out more about Ali 👉 you’re an experienced Clubhouse user, waiting to get access - if so get in touch with me via - have never heard of it, or have absolutely no interest in joining it, what Ali reveals will be of interest to you. Because the techniques he describes, aren’t just being deployed by social media. They influence our decision-making in other fields as well. What you’ll also hear is a positive argument for social media, because as Ali points out many of the benefits that Clubhouse offers are socially beneficial. At least for now.If you’re on Clubhouse, you can find me @humanrisk 👉 join me for my regular slots in:The Behavioral Hacks Club 👉 Diversifi BeSci Network 👉 PivotPoint Ideas Lab 👉
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