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Simulate Accidents to Create Self-Education in Avoiding Accidents

Feb 10, 2008
Most testing of offerings assumes that the offerings will be used in the so-called intended way. But everyone knows that many offerings will not be used that way. Figure out what those dangerous misuses are, and you've got a great head start on figuring out what education is needed to avoid or minimize those possible accidents.

Many will do some sort of in-lab testing to see what can go wrong. Unfortunately, that testing usually occurs after an offering has been designed and finalized. I suggest that you begin looking for possible accidents during the prototype stage . . . and keep looking as you move forward.

A good place to start your early testing is exposing your offering with careful supervision to those who should never be near the offering. Babies, for instance, shouldn't be taking adult pharmaceuticals or driving vehicles. But as anyone knows who has been around babies, they are remarkably good at getting their hands on things that are put away in supposedly safe places.

Naturally, you don't want any babies to be hurt in the process. You set up your observations so that no actual harm can occur while potential harm is uncovered. Don't stop at babies. Let people of all ages, sizes, backgrounds, and degrees of education tinker around with the offering to see what they do with it. As with the babies, encourage this trial and error in a way that safeguards people from harm.

But people aren't the only ones who can be harmed. Check out pets, wildlife, and the environments that are connected to the production, use, or disposal of your offerings.

After they've all done their worst, ask the people involved what other potential accidents they thought of as they played with the offering. For instance, many misuses occur when products are acquired without directions or warnings. Imagine if someone mistakenly tossed your item onto the trash pile in front of their house and someone stopped and took the item along . . . unaware of potential dangers.

Limited test markets can also be helpful for this purpose. The sales of many items suddenly take off for unexpected reasons. There can be a dangerous usage involved when that occurs. For instance, how many times have hot sales to teens meant that the item could be used to get "high" or get into mischief in some obscure way?

You can also learn from those who have made the most similar offerings in the past. What complaints did they receive? What lawsuits ensued?

This next piece of advice will seem like a bad idea to many, but I recommend it. Let various watchdog groups that monitor your industry, activity, or function take a look at your new offering before it's finalized to see what problems they spot.

That approach may seem like asking for trouble, but if you identify a problem before it becomes an accident, everyone is ahead of the game. Many watchdog groups have their own testing facilities and experts who may spot things that you would otherwise miss in the beginning.

When you start early enough, there's an unexpected benefit from such accident testing: You may find such a fundamental problem that you need to redesign your offering. When that happens, be happy. You may have substantially improved your chances for success while eliminating an enormous future financial burden.

Consider closures for medicine containers. Before the tampering incidents a number of years ago, medicines usually came in containers that anyone could open. Undoubtedly, that led to people taking medicines that weren't intended for them.

How hard would it have been to anticipate misuse if anyone could get into an item? Children got their hands on adult medications that way and were poisoned. You have to assume that manufacturers weren't looking very hard to identify potential accidents in those earlier days.

When the first "childproof" and "tamper-proof" closures came along, there was an almost audible sigh of relief. That relief lasted for only a few days until people began to realize that children could open many of these new containers better than senior citizens could. Gradually, new forms of safer closure systems were introduced that were easier to use for the intended consumers and kept some children out.

Now, if someone could redesign containers to ease the difficulties of opening jars of preserves, pickles, and other hard-to-enter items, we could get away from banging containers on their lids to loosen the seals until the glass containers break in our hands.

Serious accidents are inevitable with the way that most offerings are designed. It's as though no one wanted to think about the consequences.

Take intravenous needles. Nurses and certain technicians have to handle so many of those needles that these health workers are bound to be stuck from time to time by the typical needle.

Get stuck with a just-used needle and who knows what disease might enter your body. Until after AIDS was identified, needle manufacturers and health-care facilities left health-care workers vulnerable to such infections. Safer systems have been introduced now.

If the health-care industry was so careless, imagine what other organizations were doing. Images come to mind of the U.S. government testing the effect of radiation on unshielded soldiers by having them stand a few miles away from atomic tests. Clearly, new attitudes towards avoiding harm are necessary.

Part of the challenge is to introduce an accident-free culture to your organization. If you put safety first, you'll see some amazing reductions in accidents . . . and your costs for insurance, litigation, and damages will evaporate.

Many organizations mistakenly put current budget promises ahead of creating current and future safety. That's near-term penny wise, and long-term pound foolish. To ignore safety rigor can lead to more accidents and eventually cause budget-busting events.

To avoid this myopic focus on near-term budgets, make inducing simulated accidents a continuing part of your effort to avoid real accidents.
About the Author
Donald Mitchell is an author of seven books including Adventures of an Optimist, The 2,000 Percent Squared Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution Workbook, The Irresistible Growth Enterprise, and The Ultimate Competitive Advantage. Read about creating breakthroughs through 2,000 percent solutions and receive tips by e-mail by registering for free at

http://www.2000percentsolution.com .
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