Assess, Accept, & Address Risk
Risk is something we don't always talk about directly, yet it comes up in a whole heck of a lot of our decision making. One of the challenges in navigating disruption and countering fear is in the risks we don't necessarily talk about every day. The tough stuff. Let's be honest: our fear is often tied to the tough stuff. Sometimes that stuff is big risk.
Being able to honestly assess risk and actually see the risk landscape - or as much as is possible in any given moment - can help us chart a path forward. It may take some courage.
In incident management, we don't build a strategy until we have updated the status on the situation, determined which resources we have available now, and assessed the risk landscape of the incident itself. This is known as intelligence, or decision support information. If it's a wildfire, what is the fire danger and fire behavior? What are the threats to life and property? What are the potential impacts on critical infrastructure?
We can bring these tools ideas to our own lives. If I change jobs, what are the risks I can imagine from the change? What are the risks if I send my kids to camp? What are the risks if I rent in this building?
We can also bring this focus to the current world catastrophe: the COVID-19 pandemic. This thing has risk everywhere.
Assessing, accepting, and addressing the risk PLUS understanding the situation and resource status and outlook will be critical to finding ways through this crisis. Combined, they are the key to effective decision-making in crisis.
For something more formal, here is the methodology the US Department of Homeland Security uses (or did use, in both the Bush and Obama administrations) to determine risk (discussed further in this post on disruption).
Risk = (Threat) + (Vulnerability) + (Consequence)
That risk calculation brings in a whole lot of factors.
Acceptance is a huge piece of this. Looking at the calculation above may seem daunting. Looking at specific risks in your life or organization may seem daunting. The thing is that we are better prepared to navigate the world when we not only assess risk, but also when we accept it.
Not accepting risk doesn't make it go away. Hiding from risk = not a strategy. For an illustrated guide on how hiding from risk doesn't make it go away, please refer to the United States government's complete and total failure to accept or address the risk of coronavirus from when the risk first presented itself, or its continued, persistent wholesale refusal to address the risk even somewhat effectively as the crisis unfolds. Countless examples of attempts to hide from or simply not accept COVID-19 risks exist; few examples in the US will be as deadly and at such as scale. Denial of risk (and science, complexity, big problems, etc.) is an enormous motivator, but again - not a response strategy, and not effective.
When we can assess and accept risk, we are better prepared to come up with a strategy to actually address it.
As we go through a risk assessment process, we may find that we can't effectively address all risk. Knowing what we can and can't address can help us to find a way forward, though. It can help us work on effective action, to counter fear, to be more ready for some of the tougher things, and to navigate the unexpected.
Again, effective decision-making in any disruption requires a combination of assessing, accepting, and addressing the risk landscape PLUS understanding the situation and resource scenario.
More in the blog posts and resources lists below on assessing, accepting, and addressing risk. We do coaching or consulting on this, too, for people, businesses, governments, and organizations serious about looking at risk honestly and doing real stuff about it.