The Call to Engage AIHA Members’ Best Thinking

As you may have read in my previous blogs, AIHA , BGC, and ACGIH have come together to form a new Brand Awareness Task Force that will craft compelling messages aimed at explaining the importance of the IH profession to audiences that “are not like ourselves.” One can posit the approach in many ways, including the idea of addressing and managing total enterprise risk to an organization. Embedded in enterprise risk is the role we play in protecting worker health, which ultimately extends to the communities in which we live.

But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, I want to pause to reflect on the importance of this group to ask the right questions before plunging into assuming we know the right answers. Back in 2002, an article entitled “Strategic Questions Engaging People’s Best Thinking” was published in an online newsletter called Systems Thinker​, a repository of previously published thought-provoking articles intended “to catalyze effective change by expanding the use of systems approaches.”

In this particular article, the authors discuss how our society tends to rush to find “answers” and doesn’t take the time to figure out the right questions. Using Hewlett Packard as an example, the article explored what it might take for HP to become the WBIRL (world’s best industrial research laboratory). The authors posit that before we can suggest answers, we need to ask ourselves the most important questions.

So, thinking about the role of the IH professional, we must ask ourselves: What, really, is our problem?

  • Is it that not enough people know what IH is?
  • Is it that there’s less emphasis on IH in industry?
  • Have we worked ourselves out of jobs in industry (that is, we’ve done such a good job that the traditional IH is no longer in demand)?
  • Why are young people seemingly not interested in studying IH? Is it due to the lack of jobs?
  • Has the practice of our profession changed such that there are fewer “pure IH” jobs and more safety & health or EHS jobs?
  • Where can the IH profession make the biggest impact?

These are all powerful questions that beg to be asked. And so I invite you, the reader, to help our task force come up with “questions that matter.” It is imperative that we canvass as many diverse constituencies as we can.

As the article concludes, “Because questions are inherently related to action, they are at the heart of an organization’s capacity to mobilize the resources required to create a positive future. Seeing the organization as a dynamic network of conversations through which the organization evolves its future encourages members at every level to search for questions related to their real work that can catalyze collective energy and momentum…. For it is only in this way that organizations will be able to cultivate both the knowledge required to thrive today and the wisdom needed to ensure a sustainable future.”

Larry Sloan

Larry Sloan is AIHA’s CEO.


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