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How a Compliance requirement, inspired this website.

Having launched this new website, I thought I'd explain where the idea of having an airline safety-themed site came from.

There was nothing majorly wrong with the old website from a content perspective. But I wanted something that would make the concept of human risk and how I help my clients mitigate it, easier to understand. After all, if you're in the business of assisting clients in understanding human decision-making, and communicating more effectively with their employees, then you'd better make sure they understand you, and that you're communicating effectively with them.

The theme I settled on was airline safety cards — those laminated instructions you find in your seat pocket, telling you how to fasten your seatbelt and what do to in case of an emergency.

It was my website designer Judith, who suggested the idea. Like all good designers, she'd spent time researching my company; understanding what I do, who my clients and prospective clients are, and the key messages the website needs to transmit.

I told her that I wanted something that was 'playfully professional' and that I work with clients worldwide. In fact, I explained, pre-COVID, I used to spend a lot of time on planes.

Inspired by this, she suggested a few ideas for a theme. One of which was airline safety cards. It really resonated with me. After all, the cards are iconic and instantly recognisable; whether you're someone who flies as much as 2019-me or as little as 2020-me.

They're also a neat embodiment of Human Risk, the company, and human risk, the risk. As an aside, it was Judith who had helpfully pointed out the need to sometimes differentiate between the two. We resolved that by using upper case 'H' and 'R' when talking about the company, and lower case when referring to the risk.

[On a related tangent, you might notice that I also use both upper case and lower case versions of 'Ethics'/'ethics' and Compliance'/'compliance' on the website. This applies the same logic as Human Risk and human risk. The upper case versions refer to the Ethics & Compliance functions, while the lower case versions refer to the fields of ethics & compliance or, in the case of 'compliance', the act of being compliant]

I define 'human risk' as 'the risk of people doing things they shouldn't, or not doing things they should'. The safety card deals with both — highlighting the things the airline wants passengers to do and discouraging them from doing the things it doesn't.

It also works for Human Risk. Because it's a great example of a behavioural intervention — something designed to influence a target audience's behaviour, and it's a regulatory requirement that airlines carry them. You're not allowed to fly without them on board. What's more, the card designs are also strictly regulated. Meaning you need both an understanding of the art of influencing people, and the regulator's perspective — the perfect case study then, for how Human Risk brings Behavioural Science to compliance.

The cards also illustrate a critical human risk dynamic. People often wrongly presume that technology will automatically reduce human risk. In some respects this is true. But it also results in a concentration of human risk — when technology can't control it effectively, we become wholly reliant on people reacting appropriately.

Nowadays flying is an inherently low-risk activity. Technology, reduced reliance on human intervention, and a relentless focus on safety have helped ensure that if you are involved in an air accident, there's a 95% chance of survival.

That is if you do what the airlines tell you to — which is where the humble safety card comes into play. Because there's still a human component to ensuring safety, the card is there to help influence passenger behaviour, at precisely those points where human risk could have the most significant impact.

We tend to think of safety cards as being reasonably homogenous. To some extent, they are. But they're also tailored for each airline and aircraft, taking into account obvious factors like seat configuration and less obvious ones, like the type of life jacket in use on the plane.

What this highlights is two-fold. Firstly, many of the ethics and compliance challenges faced by organisations, have already in part at least, been addressed through behavioural interventions in entirely different contexts. There is plenty we can borrow from seemingly unrelated fields like marketing, government and airline safety when we look to manage human risk. But, and this is the second point, we need to customise solutions to make them appropriate for the specific environment (regulatory and organisational) in which they'll be deployed. The right safety card, if you like, for the right plane.

All of which explains why I thought a safety card theme was perfect for the Human Risk website. But as ever with behavioural interventions, it's not what I think that matters; I'm not the target audience. So, please take a look and let me know what you think.

Oh, and one more thing. As part of my research into safety cards, I wanted to speak to an expert. So I got in touch with Interaction Research Corporation who are the people that design the majority of them. Their CEO and owner Trisha Ferguson kindly agreed to come onto the Human Risk podcast to talk about them. What she told me was fascinating. Because if anyone understands the practicalities of bringing Behavioural Science to compliance, it's her. To hear Trisha, visit the podcast episode page.

And if you need a new website, then I can highly recommend Judith. Her website is


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