Positive Social Feedback Loop

After implementing the last Behavioral Based Safety (BBS) Program at a new site, I found myself asking… What is the next step?

Continually fascinated by looking at ways anything can be made better and following this philosophy, I started to look at what can be added to a BBS Program to help encourage a better safety culture on site.

The first process was to take a step back to see what the next path forward was, realizing the goal is to have people talk, share and promote the cultural idea of a safe workplace. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat have all done an amazing job at being able to spread a message and create a culture, so a deep dive into their programs to data mine them was needed. All these institutions use a very specific psychological phenomenon called a “social feedback loop.” A social feedback loop is a subconscious program that makes us want to fit in with our group or subculture. As a person is recognized for good behavior, they actually get a dopamine release to reinforce positive, socially acceptable behavior. In short, people are addicted to being liked.

A positive feedback loop works by simply acknowledging when the person is fitting in, “liking” their behavior to ensure they feel that recognition and feed their desire to fit in.

It makes sense how this subconscious program was created, if a person was not fitting in they would have been at the fringes of the group or an outcast. Being cast out would make them an easy target for predators and those who didn’t fit in became food, a short legacy to their genetic profile.

A positive feedback loop works by simply acknowledging when the person is fitting in, “liking” their behavior to ensure they feel that recognition and feed their desire to fit in. The best part of a positive feedback loop is that there is no limit or goal people will want to achieve. Much like people set no limit to how many followers they have to their Instagram, Facebook or Twitter accounts, this system will encourage the mark of success to be infinite. Knowing how the subconscious mind works, the next question to ask is, “How do we do it?” How do we create this positive feedback loop to help grow our safety program?

The first step is to look at how we deliver our message and since it is a construction work culture, we all know how workers are constantly looking to acquire stickers for their hard hats. Stickers on hard hats are a sign of status, experience and medals of past sites worked. Stickers are a visual display of how this person has been rewarded and recognized. With this in mind, the Gold Star program was created to help build an environment where workers strive to be recognized and have the ability to showcase their recognition through the very visible Gold Star stickers. The stickers are easily recognized and install the desired social feedback loop, much like seeing how many followers someone has on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, etc.

As people onsite start to see the gold stars being collected, they will ask what they are about and, in turn, will want to collect them also, reinforcing that subconscious program to fit in. New and young workers will instantly educate themselves on what is needed to acquire these stickers because it will be a sign of success onsite, and this self-initiative will free up time and energy from supervisors.

Using the Gold Star logo also taps into the subconscious mind because at a very young age people have been conditioned that having a gold star shows that you are successful and even through present conditioning, a 3-gold star review is never as good as a 4-gold star review. The step of having the logo similar to the Rockstar logo will also trigger already installed marketing from another company. People will associate the logo on a subconscious level as an extreme or high-level professional. It is much like saying that, “I am sponsored by Rockstar” instantly tells people you are at a whole different level of skill. Also, adding a thumbs-up logo to the center of the gold star, taps into already installed subconscious programming of the “like”, designating recognition of social media success and creating that positive social feedback loop.

These stickers are small which encourages workers to add as many stickers as possible to their hard hats. Soon, personnel onsite will be sporting a set of stickers and the ones with very few stickers will be encouraged subconsciously to be recognized.

The manager, supervisor or safety professional talks to the workers and lets them know why they are being recognized. After a quick discussion, the supervisor gives them a sticker and suggests that they place it on their hard hat at the best time possible. Because there is no loss in momentum at the site, the worker also understands that working steady and smooth is also part of the culture onsite. Delaying the work gets the worker out of their mindset and flow which can cause a slow restart and a loss of productivity.

Unlike present BBS Programs that suggest giving a positive affirmation, a corrective action and then following up with another positive affirmation, the Gold Star program must be 100% positive. What will this look like in the field? Short, quick and easy. “Hey Mike, I was watching you work and really like your use of 100% tie-off at all times. Good job.” The sticker is given, supervisor moves on. No paperwork, no documentation needed and no prolonged interaction.

By understanding how the conscious and subconscious mind affects human behavior and implementing new tools, the safety culture of various projects can be transported to the next level of safety evolution, forming a true interdependent safety program. The Gold Star initiative is a simple tool that accesses basic human psychological behavior, which allows for quick implementation and growth of positive onsite behavior.

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