Risk School

Risk is often called a “four-letter word”, usually by those who let fear (another four letter word) get in the way of understanding. Risks also imply opportunity – those who take no risks in life often find limited opportunities.

What I now find is a world where there are many people writing on risks (far more than when I started out in this field in the 1990s), but the more books we have, the less understanding there seems to be.

We find ourselves in a more risk-averse world … so perhaps it is time to go back to school!

As I do quite a bit of public speaking on risks (more on risk perception than actual risk management) via courses, training sessions and speeches, I have opted to use my blogsite as an occasional textbook or idea depository.

Here are some issues I find lacking in published books on risk – based on two decades of experience in the risk field (and outside of academe understanding of risk).

Do Facts Matter?

In 2010, I marked the tenth anniversary of a number of science communications projects (including my own, GreenFacts) that had attempted to make scientific facts accessible to non-specialists in the hope that environmental-health debates would be more rational and evidence-based. Risk management should be founded on the best available information, evidence and data (facts) … but what if we are in a world where facts don’t matter?

Welcome to the Influence-based Society

Defining Trust

Can you make a decision to support a person you don’t trust? Can you influence others if you are not trusted? Trust is essential in any decision-making process. But what is trust? How do we define it? From ten years of lectures, I have developed a series of elements that lie behind trust. We need to understand how these elements allow some to be trusted and others not.

The Trust Game: How to Respond to False Attacks

Labelling and Consumer Trust

The Contrapreneur Trilogy

I often struggle when I try to understand people who argue for hazard-based regulations (that the only way to prevent bad things from happening is to remove all hazardous things). For me, it seems reasonable for people to manage risks in order to enjoy the benefits using the main RM tool: ALARA. But Brussels is more and more hazard-based in their approach, using the precautionary principle. What is behind this unreasonable approach?

Entrepreneur: One who takes risks, creates opportunities and seeks to innovate and solve problems
Contrapreneur: One who is risk averse, creates fears and seeks to inhibit innovation (identified as the cause of problems)
This blog looks at the dangers of our embrace of contrapreneurship.

Expediency: the “art of making something go away” has become the main  political virtue in Brussels. The precautionary principle is an effective tool for expediency. This pass-the-parcel policy game has allowed contrapreneurs to win on issues.

What is Innovation

Defining innovation is quite a difficult challenge, but one thing easy to spot from a distance, is when someone (a contrapreneur) is trying to create obstacles to innovation. Perhaps this is a good reason why we need the Innovation Principle!

Banalising the Risk Perception of Endocrine Disruption

We are afraid of things we don’t understand, what seem alien to us and at the same time become personal (eg, go inside our bodies). But if it becomes banal, like  the coffee I drink every three hours, then the risk gets put into perspective. We used to be afraid of the risk of dioxins until we realised how often we are exposed and how little the risk is. We need to find ways of “banalising” the risk perception of endocrine disruptors, as we are exposed to far higher doses from coffee, soy and humus.