Moving on to Safety-II with LfE

In 2015 we were asked by AQuA to contribute an Appreciative Inquiry perspective to a series of seminars it was running on safety. While we were preparing for this, we came across the concept of Safety-II, which seemed to be such a good fit with AI.

AI overlaps with Safety-II thinking because it’s also a nonlinear way of working, which embraces and works with chaos and uncertainty. In their white paper (linked below), Hollnagel et al could be writing about how AI works in this sentence: “We must face the fact that the world cannot be explained by cause-effect models. Incidents and accidents do not only happen in a linear manner, but include emergent phenomena stemming from the complexity of the overall health system.”

At the time we read Hollnagel’s white paper – From Safety-I to Safety-II: A White Paper by Erik Hollnagel et al (2015) – we felt that there were many ways which AI’s philosophy and processes could enhance and support this approach. The information summarised in this table is taken from that document, as it clearly summarised the key differences and allows us to overlay an AI lens (wide angle). 

Safety-I and Safety-II – a comparison…

This diagram from the White Paper conveys it visually…


The title of this blog by Daniel Hummerdal also caught our eye – From deficits to possibilities. He describes Safety-II beautifully, saying: “It’s not a constellation of concepts that radiate possibilities for creating a better functioning world. The world of safety is constructed as a world of problems. The ‘objects’ that are understood, managed and talked about are viewed through a deficit lens – only when we have eliminated all deviations, addressed all the deficits, can we finally arrive into the promised land of safety where nothing bad happens.”

AI recognises that value emerges from bringing different world views together – and it has a philosophy and process which fosters that.

When Learning from Excellence was developed as an active way of supporting a Safety-II environment, AI emerged as a natural fit to support it. Initially, it was conceived as a process which could provide a structure and flow for when LfE teams wanted to facilitate a more systematic Learning from Excellence report, using a loose version of the 5Ds.

However once staff had been trained in AI they saw many different possibilities of using AI, and it has taken on a life of its own within the LfE programme.

Find out more about the Learning from Excellence programme in this short film…