Words, Language, and Vocabulary

Recently I had the pleasure of attending a one day workshop on the subject of the Social Psychology of Risk. As a Safety Consultant, I looked forward to a rewarding experience. I'd bought several books by the workshop facilitator, Dr. Rob Long, well before the workshop, and I was steadily working through them. There were about 70 Safety people in the room in groups of about seven at round tables.

An early activity in the workshop had us brainstorming words (single words mostly) that related to the word risk. As a group, we had to come up with a list of about 20  words written on an A3 sheet. Then we had to come up with an agreed top 10. Next, we had to write the 10 words on to post-it notes but not tear them off. Then the post-it notes were posted on the windows in a column with 1 at the top and 10 at the bottom. Each group had their notes posted in a column on the window. 

Then the facilitator read out some of the words. I heard words that I could associate with risk. Words such as control, hazard, problem, training, hierarchy, decision, action, consult, committee and many more. Then importantly the facilitator described for us words that were not there. Starting with learning, then conversations, heuristics, people, human, fallibility, and many others. He repeated that learning wasn't there, training was but not learning. Then came some key learnings for me. risk and learning are mutually compatible and intertwined. Risk is about learning. Now for a key learning. If particular words are not in our language, and therefore not in our vocabulary, then these words and the activities they represent are not available to us. The words, language and vocabulary is from us collectively, and unconsciously.

This was a powerful learning experience for me. I'm confident that the activity could be adjusted to suit any subject. Imagine that teacher was the word used instead of risk, what words would we come up with. Critically what words would be missing from our vocabulary?

Our facilitator Dr Rob Long, is the author of many books and numerous videos in the field. I continue to read and I'm inspired to learn.  Dr Rob Long, Human  Dymensions. (https://www.humandymensions.com)


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