Isn’t it interesting that academia continues to flourish with one of its fundamentals promoting original thought when many would agree that there is nothing new under the sun? I like the analogy that each generation gets on an exercise bicycle, peddles like fury to push the boundaries of progress, inevitably gets nowhere, expires and the next generation takes over. You only have to read Plato’s Republic to see that he wrestles with the very issues we do. What does academia produce other than intellectual egomania?
What can be new in the field of considering risk? Didn’t the Pilgrim Father’s take precautions in light of the expected risks before leaving Southampton, and having to put into Plymouth for some in transit repairs? To suggest otherwise would be engaging in what CS Lewis coined, chronological snobbery. A Cranfield University academic said, “business is all about managing risk”. I agree. Risk is speculation, innovation, taking a punt, it’s all these things. Appreciation risk with plans to respond as events unfold is a great way to secure your enterprise’s success.
Mariners have been living with risks throughout mankind’s history. Preparing for disaster, anticipating the unexpected, and watching their adversary, is woven into their psyche. So what happens when it all unravels? To find out I turn to the Maritime Accident Investigation Branch. Their reports provide detailed accounts, taking the readers from one moment to the next, from the quayside, to the event and beyond. They provide the all-important context, blending corporate policies with human flaws that lead, all too often, to tragedy. What’s the thread on which success or failure hangs? Culture.
I recently served in Kenya, orchestrating activity in a recently expanded business. Visiting Nairobi’s East African Breweries I discovered a pervasive culture of safety and security. However cavalier your personal attitude once you cross their threshold you are swept up in a culture of compliance. However, working in the farthest reaches of the Dadaab Refugees Camps, where law and order is in more perilous state, collective and individual attitudes to risk shift dramatically. Individually people demonstrate a much higher capacity for risk taking. Mitigating risks takes time and effort and when the individual cannot see any immediate benefit in that moment he takes his chance. Seeing predictable patterns of behaviour by Kenya’s Administrative Police (AP), terrorists take advantage and several AP have paid the price with their life’s blood. Cultural mandates guide and shape attitudes to risk.
I offer these thoughts to encourage the reading of the Institute for Risk Management’s Paper titled: ‘Risk Culture Guidance for Boards’. We know that each generation struggles with the lessons of history, all too often repeating their fathers’ mistakes, however, knowing this gives the wise an advantage. What’s the best question: “Based on past experience, current circumstances and future hopes and dreams, what’s the wise thing to do?” Here’s the IRM paper: