I recently listened to this excellent podcast from radio 4: The Blame Game – 03/05/2016. I heard about various industries in which a blame culture is prevalent: health (midwifery), MI5, sports, politics and others. By the end I came to the conclusion that blame is never useful. It is not the same as accountability; blame is a cop out. It is fuelled by fear and an attempt to protect our own egos. A culture of blame will stifle innovation, promote self protection and lead to defensive behaviour driven by fear of reprimand and litigation.
A proposed solution is to create a ‘just’ culture: a culture where we acknowledge mistakes and learn from them, without apportioning blame. This sounds like a good idea in principle, but practical solutions to help us make the cultural switch are lacking. Also, I can’t help feeling that we can do better. It just seems a bit flat; somewhat one dimensional. Where’s the inspiration? It feels like we’re heading for mediocrity, by trying to avoid things going badly. Can’t we try to create something inspiring: a culture where excellence is given its own status? Can we not shoot for the moon? If ‘blame culture’ is downright wrong, ‘just culture’ is safe and mediocre. I would like to see a nurturing culture where excellence is routinely highlighted and appreciated; where staff are motivated and their work is regularly celebrated; where colleagues support each other; where bullying is expelled and blue-sky thinking and dreaming about a good future is part of daily practice.
It might sound a bit far-fetched, but some days I think we’re almost there.