If you’ve typed the words “I feel” or “I am feeling” on a blog in the past three years, chances are your feelings have been tracked. Not by a government but by wefeelfine.org, the work of computer scientist Jonathan Harris and Google engineer Sep Kamvar. Their system captures sentences containing the words “I feel” or “I am feeling” and scans them to see if the sentences fit into one of 5,000 pre-identified categories. Where possible, the age, gender, and location of the blogger are also recorded. If a location is available, the local weather at the time of the post is recorded.
According to the We Feel Fine mission page, their database of several million feelings increases by 15,000 to 20,000 new feelings each day.
The data is displayed in six unique formats; madness, murmurs, montage, mobs, metrics, and mounds. Mounds reveal how many people are feeling good, bad, ugly, or any of over 3,400 common feelings. Did you post about feeling “comfortable” in the past few days? So did 16,552 other people. If you wrote that you felt “flaky” you’re one of only twenty. 70% of these flaky feelings were written in sunny weather and 20% under cloudy skies (A location was not available for the remaining 10%).
The thought of separate but collective feelings inspires me to say, wefeelfine.org is pretty cool.
However you choose to describe your feelings, you’re not alone.
Have you read Tell Me a Story: Why Stories are Essential to Effective Safety Training by Elaine T. Cullen and Albert H. Fein? It’s a free publication from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The work of Cullen and Fein validates the strength of story telling as a vital component in adult learning. Although the focus of this publication is worker safety in the mining industry, the following quote can be applied to adult learners universally;
Humans are storytellers. Stories have been used throughout history to entertain, to inform, to provide a sense of inclusiveness in the narrative of mankind. Stories work at a very different level than pure information-sharing because they deal not just with rational thought, but also with how we feel about what we have heard. Stories are able to move beyond the barriers people create, to touch not just our minds, but our hearts.
Trying to change another person’s behavior permanently (one of the primary objectives of safety training) without obtaining their buy-in is impossible. It is true that people will change their behaviors to generally comply with mandated rules when they must (when the supervisor or the inspector is watching, for example), but when nobody is around to monitor their behavior, they often revert to how things have always been done and how their occupational culture expects them to behave, particularly if those mandates are in conflict with culturally expected behaviors. To openly go up against a traditional norm, people have to be convinced that the new behavior is a better choice and that the choice to follow it is their choice.
The key for a safety trainer, then, is to find the internal control switch in each trainee that responds to the “why should I care about this information?” question and provides the answer “because it makes sense for me to care. It may save my life some day.” Stories have the ability to do this.
Are you finding the “internal control switch” for your target audience? Are you giving them what they need to convince themselves that your message is relevant? I never tire of this subject.
This morning I was reminded of the extreme trouble we can cause each other by putting too much emphasis on compliance. I was in a discussion on the impact Avian Flu could have on the dental industry. I decided to contact an organization I rarely work with and find out if they have any plans for responding to a human outbreak of the virus. Their brief reply was revealing:
“[we] will follow the proper protocol and work with the CDC to insure compliance in the event of a flu pandemic”.
While this reply is technically accurate, it reminds me of a theme I sometimes see in business culture; if we follow protocol and comply with federal and state standards, we will be safe. Safe from most legal action, yes. Safe from hurting individuals and organizations, no. When avoiding legal ramifications becomes the primary intent of written protocol, there is a problem. Business decisions, people decisions, cannot begin and end with the letter of the law. I think we all prefer to work with individuals and organizations who understand the need for intuitive readiness to precede the requirements of legal compliance.
Will Avian flu become a human pandemic? Will individuals, families, and organizations be ready? Visit pandemicflu.gov for more details.