The Weekly Reflektion 22/2022

Continuous improvement is an important factor in ensuring safe and efficient operations and pre-supposes learning and a learning process. However, not all cultures are so receptive to innovation and new thinking to benefit from learning.

Do you have a culture that encourages learning or discourages learning?

We would like to invite you to a ‘Listen and Reflekt’ lunchtime seminar on Teams 1st June 2022. The subject for this seminar will be Learning from Incidents. . Send an email to and we will send a Teams link.

A Chinese firearm, the teppe (iron cannon), was introduced to Japan in the early 13th Century, however there is little information that these were used extensively or developed further. Portuguese firearms were introduced in 1543 when Portuguese ships sailed further and further afield in search of trade and commerce. At that time firearms were much less efficient than, for example bows and arrows, as a trained archer could fire off 15 arrows in the time required for a single shot. The Japanese recognized the potential of guns, and there followed an intense development of the basic firearms in Japan. Hōjutsu, the Japanese martial art dedicated to firearms usage was established in this period. Development of guns in Japan by 1592 surpassed European technology.

Over the next 250 years the development of guns was gradually stopped, and the use of guns reduced significantly. This was done by various national and local limitations on firearm manufacture and use. The main driving force for this was the ‘samurai’ fighting culture. The tradition of elite samurai warriors with their focus on swords and sword rituals and the honour associated with fighting with the famed samurai sword. There was little honour in being shot by a peasant from a distance without any pomp or ceremony. Firearms were later kept for scaring birds and animals from farm crops. As long as Japan remained relatively isolated and not threatened by aggressive neighbours then the technology advantage that they had established and then lost was not so important. However, things changed rapidly when Commodore Perry and the US Navy arrived in 1845 to open up Japan for trade. The US Navy had plenty of guns and soon persuaded the Japanese that trade would be beneficial for both parties. The development of firearms in Japan was soon rediscovered however the technology gap was significant and for many years this influenced the trade relationship between the US and Japan. The samurai warrior culture did not stand a chance against guns that could fire a barrage of explosive shells.

Learning and innovation are often stated objectives for companies and in Norway there is a regulatory requirement for continuous improvement. However, many companies do not have a culture where learning and innovation is ensured. Many companies have not established processes that recognize that learning requires change. Many companies fail to create a culture for learning where dialog and reflection is central to facilitate the changes that are required. 

Andrew Hopkins has written many books on Major Accidents and ‘Failure to Learn’ discusses the causes of a major explosion at the BP Texas City Oil Refinery on March 23, 2005, where 15 workers were killed and more than 170injured. Hopkins highlights the culture of focus on personal safety as one of the reasons for failure to address process safety issues. How is your culture and how does it influence what and how your organisation learns?

Reflekt AS