One of the greatest risks to the success of businesses is human error. Human error is a failure of a planned action to achieve a desired outcome that results in mistakes, incidents, accidents and even loss of life. It can be the root cause of both catastrophic organizational accidents and serious individual injuries. Incident reports in some industries attribute as much as 80% – 90% of serious injuries and accidents to human error. The overall cost of human error to US and UK businesses is $18.7 billion per year. To reduce human error, businesses are spending billions on artificial intelligence and technology that can help them reduce the risk for injuries, accidents and mistakes, saving lives and improving productivity and profits, but often replacing people, taking their jobs, and not doing too much to help their employees reduce their personal risk for error.
Fact of the matter is that if people and organizations want to future proof themselves against artificial intelligence, committing less errors and accidents, reducing their risk for human error will have to become an even bigger business priority than ever before. Although organizations generally take precautions and implement policies and procedures to reduce the possibility of harmful incidents and accidents, little is done in general to help individuals reduce their personal risk for error, suggesting we are not all that clear about how to enable people to reduce their risk for error.
Neuroscience research offers a fresh perspective that can significantly contribute towards understanding why human error occurs and how it can be reduced. Research shows that continued neurological stress and fatigue is the brain’s greatest enemy. The inhibiting impact that continued stress and fatigue has on the electrical transmission of bio-chemical impulses in the brain is one of the root causes for human error as it significantly decreases people’s mental alertness, thinking, learning and information processing abilities.
People are uniquely wired. They have different information processing styles because of different combinations of brain hemisphere, eye, ear and hand dominance. Information comes in through all the senses. We have two brain hemispheres, two eyes, two ears and two hands, but will always have a dominant brain hemisphere, eye, ear and hand that takes the leading role to process information actively, while the non-dominant hemisphere and senses processes information more passively. People’s hemispheric and sensory dominance profile becomes their default mode to process information during stress or fatigue.
The interplay between people’s unique combination of hemispheric and sensory dominance and how stress and fatigue may limit how they process information, will determine their potential risk for error and the interventions necessary to reduce error. When the dominant eye, ear or hand is on the same side as the dominant brain hemisphere, we may experience a neurological hindrance in how we process information during stress or fatigue. This may cause people to look but not see, hear but not listen or react but not effectively respond, resulting in mistakes, incidents, accidents and even loss of life.
Furthermore, each hemisphere and sense has specific processing functions. In this way each hemisphere and senses avoids duplication of functions and complements each other. In a natural, relaxed state, there will usually be balance between all functions. There is however, a natural tendency for one hemisphere, eye, ear and hand to lead, which then causes people to emphasize specific processing functions more than others, affecting how they process information, what they process and what they may regard as less important or even omit.
To effectively reduce people’s risk for human error, they have to optimize and maintain neuro-agility. The first step would be for them to identify and understand their unique neurological design (the combination of brain hemisphere and sensory dominance) and how their neuro-design impact their mental flexibility. Secondly, they have to measure how the drivers that impact the ease and speed with which they process information influence their brain performance and neuro-design. This will determine which neuro-agility elements need to be optimizes. Subsequently, they have to develop and apply the brain fitness and neuro-flexibility skills that was identified.
The above mentioned neuroscience approach offers insightful strategies and solutions that improve performance and productivity, reducing risk for human error, saving lives, reducing accidents and mistakes. Case studies have proven this approach to reduce absenteeism from work, increase accident free hours, wellness and productivity and prevent loss of life. Creating and maintaining neuro-agility certainly should be of primary importance to people and businesses who want to improve performance and reduce their risk for error.
By André Vermeulen