Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Using the Safety Culture Discussion Cards: Tips from a user

I have received some great practical tips (and considerations for the future) from an ATC Safety colleague who had used the Safety Culture Discussion Cards with several different groups. Thanks to Alfonso Barba Martínez (Head of Regional Safety at AENA, the Spanish Air Navigation Service Provider) for the tips below!
Basically, I find it essential to make an introduction to the aims of the cards and the different ways to use them. What I find could be an improvement is to introduce simple cues for those having to administer them as `facilitators´, because what we have been doing until now is introducing the product to those who can make a better use of it (Instructors, Supervisors, mid-management). This made me think that it might be useful to explain a bit further what the outcome of the cards can result in. So basically I would cue those administering the cards on:

a) Make sure who your audience is, and prepare specific cards for them on each element.
b) The cards are an excellent tool to insert into any meeting as an added practical activity, breaking frequently tedious expositions and offering some `brain refreshment´.
c) Don´t use the cards with more 10-12 people? Otherwise the discussion might drift away very easily.
d) Is anyone supposed to take notes? As facilitator I advised them I would be taking notes, and the different comments and views expressed allowed me to identify weak points in which future safety strategies may be focused on at local level: shifts, fatigue management, airport signaling.
e) Also, I would favour using Option 2 Safety moments at the beginning, as it is a lot easier to engage people in a straight forward discussion on just one item, two maximum.
f) In the `How to use this Cards´ section, Options 1 Comparing views, Option 3 Focus on... and Option 2 SWOT analysis don´t necessarily need to use all cards, but it sounds like you must. It all depends on time available and going through all of them should not be the objective.
g) Be careful with the card selection when mixing groups with different activity areas, i.e. Human Resource, Maintenance, ATS, Financial and again, have relevant questions prepared beforehand.

I hope this can be useful to you. As I say, it is mainly focused on the tasks by those presenting the cards to others who must deal with different audiences, and could perhaps feature as a card of its own at the beginning.

In the near future, I'll be blogging on each of the options for using the cards, and it would be great to hear of any other options for how the cards have been or could be used. In the meantime, you can read more about the cards (and download them all as a PDF via the link at the end of the page) here, and see the individual cards as images here.


  1. Hi Steve

    I was forwarded details of your cards from a colleague and from my varied background in narrative, complexity and innovation facilitation could see these cards being extremely useful in workshops in the following ways:

    1. Plotting them on the (Cognitive Edge) cynefin complexity framework to reveal entrained thinking, stimulate discussion and diagnose appropriate interventions

    2. Putting them through a TRIZ 'ideality' exercise contrasting benefits vs costs&harms

    3. Using them as themes on a river diagram to identify personal (or organisational) expertise. This could generate learning contracts and or monitoring change/impact over time (An alternative to outcome measurement).

    4. Posting them around the room (especially during a lessons learned workshop) and inviting 'build upon' ideas about how to improve,what we should do more/less of

    5. Generating archetypes (cartoon characters) of the type of person who has too little or too much of each to use for virtual testing new ideas, minimising risk etc

    Many more possibilities come to mind but that's probably enough for now.

    Cheers, Ron

    1. Hi Ron

      Wow, those are great ideas - nice creative thinking. The Cynefin and TRIZ approaches/frameworks are really good ideas for applications. We also printed the cards (the main ones, from A1) as full res A2 posters (the high res link is at, and these have been used in workshops and working environments more generally.

      If it's OK with you Ron, I'll quote your tips into a new blog entry so that they are not hidden here. I will also consider them for the next version of the cards. The important thing for me is that they are flexible physical artifacts that can be used in any way imaginable by the user - and that they a free! But these kind of tips really help. Sometimes people find that imagining is the difficult part (especially, I think, when they have been trained to think very analytically). Once the conversation gets started, though, it is very natural and can go in all kinds of directions.

      Thanks again