That old adage, it’s not you, it’s me… but really, it’s probably both of us! 

We hold people responsible for their health and safety. We might even discipline them, hoping that they will change under their own volition. But our behaviour is constantly being manipulated by the environment we are in, and one of the biggest manipulators of our behaviour is other people’s behaviours. 

What I say and do, affects what you say and do and vice versa. In fact, what I say and do affects you more than it affects me…We are collectively responsible for the behaviours we as a group get. Collective responsibility is far more powerful than personal responsibility. 

• Behaviour never happens in isolation the context is always driving the behaviour. 

• Holding individuals responsible for their behaviour, without examining the causal elements from the environment will lead you to the wrong conclusion and ineffective plans for improvement. 

• Use collective responsibility to help create teams that look out for each other and self-improve.  

Top tips and advice from famous folks.

Here are some very relevant snippets of wisdom related to collective responsibility and the interconnectedness of human behaviour.

1. “We cannot live for ourselves alone. Our lives are connected by a thousand invisible threads, and along these sympathetic fibers, our actions run as causes and return to us as results.” – Herman Melville

2. “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” – John Donne

3. “There are absolutely ways to manipulate behavior, because our behavior is endlessly being manipulated by the world around us.” – Dr Robert Sapolsky

4. “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” – Viktor E. Frankl

5. “Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human. Society is something that precedes the individual.” – Aristotle

6. “Society is not a mere sum of individuals; it is a collective entity that has its own reality and its own life.” – Émile Durkheim

7. “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Will Durant (Quoting Aristotle)

8. “If you want to make a change in the world, start with the person in the mirror.” – Mahatma Gandhi

9. “Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa

10. “The world is changed by your example, not by your opinion.” – Paulo Coelho

Written by Bob Cummins, Sodak

If you want to hear more from Bob Cummins, he will be speaking at our next event The SHE Show South, Tuesday 11th July 2023, DoubleTree by Hilton, MK Dons Stadium, Milton Keynes.


Bob Cummins, Sodak

I help companies create safer, more secure, healthier and more effective places of work.

I am an engineer, I used to be a civil engineer, I’m now a behavioural engineer. I specialise in helping leaders create environments that bring out the best in their people through the application of behavioural science.  I run Sodak Limited, a behaviour design agency. My background is construction, in the later part of my career, I specialised in health and safety.

I become increasingly disheartened and frustrated with the way it was all heading. Piles of procedures and paperwork, increasingly patronising initiatives and the incessant preaching that “all harm was preventable”. I mean, come on, how can all harm be preventable when we still rely on people?

Safety just isn’t a priority; if it were, we would be given unlimited budget and time.

No, safety has to be a value. Some harm will befall some people during their lives. We need to recognise this and continually improve, not shut down conversations because we are too scared to admit someone, somewhere might get hurt.

In 2008 I started learning the principles of behavioural science. This helped me see why so much of what had been creeping into health and safety seemed like such nonsense. Over the next five years, I studied the subject extensively. I became completely absorbed in understanding why people do what they do.

The more I learnt, the more I could identify the source of the chaos and see the harm caused by ill-informed initiatives. In 2011 I set up Alternative Safety Ltd to challenge the entrenched thinking about health and safety.

I formed Sodak in 2013 with the express aim of helping people understand people. Our team includes academics, consultants, industry experts and specialists. We help organisations improve performance through the application of behavioural science and evidence based management.

Learning this stuff changed my life and I want to share it with you too.

Please note, the views expressed by the original article author are theirs alone and do not necessarily represent those of Washingtondowling Associates Ltd or The SHE Show and therefore we take no responsibility for the content or accuracy of this post.