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Abundance Thinking in Ergonomics Innovation

Abundance Thinking in Ergonomics Innovation Photo

Some ergonomics professionals, particularly consultants, do not understand the value I see in openly sharing & publishing new ergonomics application technologies. This is a different approach … I agree. But beyond the answers of “because I can” or “because I want to”, I have solid reasons for openly sharing information with the ergonomics community.

The primary reason I choose to share is that I have an abundance mentality concerning ergonomics innovation, rather than a scarcity mentality.

Abundance Thinking

An abundance mentality can generally be described as …

- You don't have to fail for me to succeed (a colleague described this as “the sandbox is big enough for all of us”)

- There is no shortage of ideas or potential innovations

- Sharing information & helping others improve their skills is the right thing to do

- There is more to be gained from sharing ideas than from hoarding them

Whereas a scarcity mentality can be described as ….

- For me to succeed, you must fail (success is about “beating the competition”)

- Ideas and innovations are limited (“You get yours, I got mine” was a bumper sticker I recall seeing)

- Intellectual capital is a competitive edge, you don’t “share” ANYTHING with the competition - much less collaborate with them!

- I’m not sharing my ideas

I think the scarcity mentality is a very limited view of the world. I know that opinions on this will vary. You will have to decide which mentality - abundance or scarcity - you identify with and apply. Here are my reasons for sharing, and adopting an abundance mentality with respect to innovation in applied ergonomics.

Sharing Leads to Innovation

If others had not shared their knowledge, many of my innovations would not be possible. For example, the ergonomics force & fatigue evaluation technologies I’m currently developing are the direct result of being informed & inspired by 3 people’s published work (all 3 "shared" their information & ideas).

1.) Frederick Taylor published his work in a paper over 100 years ago. The Principles of Scientific Management outlined the concept of determining optimal rest/recovery allowances during the workday for workers to recover from muscle fatigue, and optimize productivity.

2.) In the 1980-90’s Susan Rodgers shared an approach for evaluating force exertions by estimating the in-task recovery time necessary to prevent the onset of localized (“static”) muscle fatigue.

3.) In 2012, Jim Potvin published his work, Predicting Maximum Acceptable Efforts for Repetitive Tasks: An Equation Based on Duty Cycle. Jim’s MAE Equation is a mathematical model for predicting acceptable efforts based on Duty Cycle (DC is the % of time force is applied over a work cycle).

All 3 of the above works were instrumental in me conceptualizing a new model for the evaluation of localized muscle fatigue. Omit one of these, and I don't think the idea would have been possible (for me).

And speak of sharing ... Jim Potvin was instrumental in formalizing these concepts into the current RCRA (Recommended Cumulative Rest Allowance) model. A modified version of Jim's MAE Equation is the underlying basis for a presentation & paper that Jim and I subsequently co-authored, An Equation to Calculate the Recommended Cumulative Rest Allowance Across Multiple Subtasks, outlining the RCRA evaluation approach. The RCRA indirectly models force exertions by comparing model recovery time (time predicted for muscles to recover) to the actual in-task recovery time. This approach (in general) paves the way for multi-task force evaluation, and other cool & useful things in the application of ergonomics.

So without Jim's MAE equation, the RCRA would not have been possible. And without the shared work of Taylor and Rodgers, I don't think I could have connected the dots and conceptualized the model to begin with.

Adoption of New Technologies

Another vital reason for openly sharing innovations is that before something is widely adopted, it first must attain a critical mass of acceptance, followers, etc. In other words, before Saturn Ergonomics can benefit significantly from something new such as the RCRA methodology, people must first know about it. It must be viewed as credible. And it must have a track record of successful application.

There are signs that the RCRA is gaining acceptance in the ergonomics community.

> Multiple consultants and industry practitioners are applying the RCRA.

> There will be a panel discussion including the RCRA at the upcoming 2017 ACE-ODAM Conference. (yes, I will be participating)

Some data points I’ve experienced, indicating that RCRA is gaining traction:

> I continue to find new ways to adapt RCRA based methods to client projects

I have been

> contacted by ergonomics researchers requesting to learn more about the RCRA.

> approached by corporate ergonomists requesting to learn more about RCRA.

> invited to speak at the 2016 TASF Ergonomics Conference on RCRA.

> invited to speak at multiple regional ergonomics meetings about RCRA.

> invited to guest lecture to graduate-level students at a foreign university on RCRA.

> approached by entrepreneurs, software developers, and ergonomics consultants expressing interest in collaboration or joint-venture projects related to RCRA.

Additionally, recently when talking with local Auburn University graduate-level ergonomics students, I discovered that some were familiar with the RCRA evaluation approach.

Transparency in Innovation

Another reason for sharing (and openly publishing) is that any new development coming from a consultant seems to be - for whatever reasons - questioned and viewed with a bit of skepticism. I know, I’ve been in this spot before in past consulting jobs. The questions abound …

- What research is this model based upon?

- What is the source of your data or calculations?

- Has this been peer-reviewed?

- Is this approach evidence-based?

And the questions don’t just come from the academic professionals; they come from corporate ergonomists, safety managers, and other consultants. These types of questions can make you reluctant to create anything new … it’s easier to just keep doing same old same old.

[ If you want to make your ergo consultant squirm, just ask them to show you the specific research their “proprietary model” is based upon. - - - Just kidding; I’m laughing as I type this. ]

I’ve found that transparently sharing innovations and publishing new approaches, particularly when in collaboration with academic professionals, makes it much easier (for me) to answer these types of questions.

Collaborative Innovation Effect

Lastly, there is something I like to call the collaborative innovation effect. When you share & discuss ideas with others, one idea literally leads to another. And over time ideas “intersect” (I find myself combining ideas from different people). Most innovative ideas I have had were sparked by sharing & discussing ergonomics with industry ergonomists and academic professionals. [ Who chose to share with me. ]

A summary of upcoming Saturn Ergonomics innovations can be found in the blog post below.

I believe the RCRA (Recommended Cumulative Rest Allowance) calculation paves the way for some really neat innovations in applied ergonomics - multi-task force modeling, evaluating an isolated force (while factoring in impact of surrounding contextual forces), individualized evaluation, etc.

To receive future updates on innovations, please visit the Home page and join the website list. And I invite you to check out the Saturn Ergonomics Facebook page,

"Likes", "Shares" or "Follows" are greatly appreciated!

In 2017, Saturn Ergonomics will be sharing at the following professional development conferences.

ISOES (International Society for Occupations Ergonomics & Safety), June 1-2, Seattle, WA

ACE-ODAM, July 31 - Aug 3, Banff, Alberta, Canada

I wish you the best applying ergonomics.


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