Dr Sheree Bekker Profile picture
Jul 10, 2018 17 tweets 5 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
[Thread: let's talk the #ThaiCaveResue, intervention research, and #complexity]

Struck by how Musk's mini submarine - “made of rocket parts and named Wild Boar after kids’ soccer team”- is a teachable moment for intervention research in #complex settings

Let's take a look at why, using complexity theory.

Musk's rocket is indeed highly sophisticated and built through 'rocket science', yet on-site it has been deemed ill-suited for this complex rescue mission

How is this so and what can we learn from it?
First: good graphics here of what this labyrinth cave complex looks like, and what the rescue entails (or, at the very least, the *known* problems the rescue mission is likely to encounter)

Next: a short video of the Musk submarine being tested.

Notice context.

Yes, Musk also *brought elements of context in* by testing the submarine for narrow spaces the size of those encountered in the Thai cave complex


"He was politely told that a small submarine he offered rescue workers was surplus to requirements.

'Although his technology is good and sophisticated it’s not practical for this mission,' Narongsak Osatanakorn (head of the joint command centre coordinating the operation)
Why is this so? First, let's take a look at the difference between complicated and complex problems and approaches

Here a summary slide I use that explains the difference between complicated and complex:
Musk's submarine casts both the problem and the solution as *complicated*, yet the #ThaiCaveResue is inexplicably and indisputably *complex*

This is not merely a problem of getting from A to B...here the whole of the rescue mission is equal to *more* than the sum of its parts
Complex does not mean 'very complicated'...complexity is fundamentally different to complicated in a number of crucial ways

Complexity demonstrates non-linearity, emergence, and requires the ability to evolve, learn, and adapt
This submarine demonstrates the problem with developing interventions in sanitised contexts...decontextualised complicated approaches often invest time and money (often with the best of intentions) but result in interventions that are minimal, negligible, or even negligent (Hawe)
That is, interventions that are developed under complicated rather than complex assumptions are later found unsuitable in the 'real-world' (leaving developers unable to explain 'why')

Complicated approaches tend to *add context back in* as Musk did here, testing the submarine for cave dimensions...

Yet interventions for complex problems developed under complicated approaches are always going to fall short

This is a matter of ontology, not just method
We need to approach #injuryprevention problems with complexity as worldview (ontology), rather than adding it back in after interventions have been designed - this will better account for 'real-world' contexts
Notice the time-lag here too. By the time the submarine reached the site, 8 boys had already been rescued.

Recognise this in our intervention research too? E.g. the 17 year gap between research and practice

Complex does not mean perfect...complex approaches are often highly pragmatic and responsive to context (as we have seen with the rescue mission learning, changing, adapting each new day as conditions change)
Thread inspired by this tweet

#Injuryprevention interventions are almost always complex *social* interventions...getting comfortable with the inherent uncertainty of human interventions is a strength that we must grapple with, rather than write out

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