Black box thinking in NHS

  • black box thinking in NHS

Human factors and Black Box Thinking

Failure is something we all have to confront from time to time, but it is how we deal with the failure that is the important thing.

In the airline industry, every aircraft is equipped with a black box, which records the conversations and sounds in the cockpit. If there is an accident, the box is located, the data analysed, and the reason for the accident investigated in minute detail, to ensure that procedures can be changed to eliminate the risk of the same or similar accidents occurring again, thus saving often hundreds of lives.

Safety in healthcare should run along the same lines, but we are far from the “Black Box” scenario described above, or are we?

In the NHS in England it is reported that between 840 to 40 000 patient a year are affected by potentially serious medical errors, with half of them dying as a result. (Bazian, 2013). These statistics, while shocking, almost certainly underestimate the true scale of the problem.

Avoidable harm can include anything from misdiagnosis to dispensing the wrong drugs and each incident should be investigated in the same way as described by Mathew Syed in his book, “Black Box Thinking, Marginal Gains and the Secret of High Performance”. But should we extend this “Black Box thinking to Sales and Marketing and indeed all aspects of our professional lives? One could argue that there is sufficient evidence on the subject to suggest that it would be a good use of our time. Invest in time today to save time tomorrow!!

This is exactly what Insightful Health Solutions did with a team of Healthcare Development Managers and Healthcare Professional recently

Using the Human factors approach which takes key aspects from Black Box Thinking and works on the theory of prototyping and re- prototyping, we worked with our delegates to apply this principle to team working and building simple structures that allowed people the opportunity to test the theory.

Human factors principles aim to understand the ‘fit’ between an employee, their equipment and the surrounding environment, which can include learning styles, behaviours and values, leadership, teamwork, the design of equipment and processes, communication and organisational culture. Through a better understanding of these principles, changes can be made that result in a reduction of human error and higher quality outcomes, whether that is in a sales, marketing, business or healthcare environment.

Insightful Health Solutions takes some simple principles from Human Factors and Black Box Thinking and working with our partners, we have created a state of the art workshop using virtual reality to bring your experience to life.

If you are interested in hearing more about how we can create a bespoke experience for your teams, please get in touch at


2018-06-22T10:09:12+00:00June 22nd, 2018|