Risk Management vs. Risk Assessment

Risk Management vs. Risk Assessment

Jumping out of an airplane is risky. We take risks every day. Why put ourselves into a position of risk or danger anyway?  Why do we place ourselves into situations that can cause us fear? Why are we attracted to scary movies?  Why do we seek out experiences like this? Why do we pursue the unknown? Possibly some could argue that we discover and choose the emotion or adrenaline that these situations create.  Or, some argue we are born with the adventurous spirit.  How else would any of us as babies venture out to start walking, a literal step into the unknown?  The unknown can give us so much potential of the unexplored.  We take risks to test our resolve, experience growth, find answers, and to feel alive. Perhaps it is our individual destiny to balance inside ourselves the dichotomy of fear and curiosity.   

A skydiving student of mine remarked to me recently, “My non-skydiving friends just don’t understand why I skydive.  They don’t take chances with their lives.”  I replied, “That’s not true.  Do they ever drive on a two lane highway? When another car comes from the other direction, there’s a closing speed of 120 mph, same as our closing speed to the ground when we are in freefall, yet at a distance of only a few feet.  The difference is, I can see this huge planet Earth coming at me 10,000 feet away, but I can avoid hitting it at deadly speed simply by pulling a little handle.  On the highway, you never know what that guy in the other lane will do at the last second. He could be messing with his cell phone or under the influence… or eating his sandwich or texting grandma.”

What are the risks we accept unaware, without thinking? 
Being aware and making choices about the risks that we see is Risk Assessment.  Some people use the misnomer “risk management” but this implies control over these risks.  We cannot control them.  We can only become aware using Be Here Now, and then decide if the benefit we would gain outweighs the possibility of undesired consequence.  The word Risk is often coupled with the word Reward, if not in definition, certainly in explanation.

Red flags

A traditional yet ineffective approach is to use time and energy identifying a couple of only the most obvious risk factors, then contriving ways to struggle against an existing risk. This technique mirrors the ineffectiveness of Problem Solving. However, a possibly better use of resources might be to use the “Here” part of Be Here Now to increase our awareness, relax to the situation around us and see what exists, opening up to see as many truths that can be perceived suspending judgment. Then after we gather observations, we can determine if we can eliminate some factors, and measure if the benefits make taking that risk worth it.  The key to making this happen is by seeing what is actually there. Honesty, integrity, clarity are essential here.

Skydivers reduce their risk in this manner, using the Red Flag approach. For example, a licensed jumper comes up to manifest, wanting to get on a load to make a skydive. He mentions he is uncurrent, not having made a jump in about four months. Red Flag.  He has never made a jump at this drop zone, so the landing area is unfamiliar. Red Flag. He hands the rigger his gear to check, and discovers the reserve is out of date. Reserves are required to be opened on the ground, inspected, and repacked every 180 days unless they were deployed of course. He would not be able to jump his own familiar gear. Red Flag. A quick check of his logbook shows that he has only made a handful of jumps on his new gear anyway. Red Flag. And the main canopy he wants to jump is fairly aggressive for his experience level. Red Flag. To top it off, winds picked up and are getting gusty. Red Flag.

As many red flags in this system that can be mitigated should be. For example, he could get a briefing about landing, seeing and drawing on an aerial map and walking the landing area. He could get a coach to review emergency procedures and basics in order to refresh his currency. He could choose to rent a larger main canopy, one of similar size and style that he has much experience on.  He could even wait until winds die down.

  • There are three types of risk: unexamined, inherent, and voluntary.Unexamined risk encompasses all risk that has not been identified. Simply going through an observation process, being calm and aware, slowing our thinking down, one can move most of these unexamined risks to inherent or voluntary. Any uncontrollable or external factor arising from outside the immediate system would remain unexamined. There will always be unexamined risk. You don't know what you don't know. The ideal approach would be to examine as much risk as you can, then accept the unexamined risk that flows your way.  
  • Inherent risk is risk that cannot be mitigated or reduced by applying procedures like we might in the above example. This includes uncontrollable external forces that you can identify. A person should not expect to be able to eliminate all the red flags in a system, because few worthwhile ventures are risk-free. 
  • Voluntary risk is risk that may or may not have had mitigating steps applied. We take on voluntary risk with full consciousness after weighing the reward against the possible negative outcomes. The amount of voluntary risk varies based on an individual’s preference and subjective evaluation. Unfortunately, sometimes the human emotion of fear can cloud this assessment.

Is there anything worse than fear?  I think so. The extremes on both ends: the fear of feeling fear and the absence of fear.

Fear of feeling fear...  Like President Franklin Roosevelt put so succinctly, “All we have to fear is fear itself.” It is a mirror inside a mirror, never ending and full of misperception, misdirection.   Some people waste so much energy on avoiding fear, fearing fear, they do not have time to realize it is not working.

The flip side to debilitating fear is the complete lack of fear!  Absence of fear is not bravery; it’s choosing to ignore helpful information.  Listening to fears can be helpful since fear is designed instinctively to save our behinds!  Those extreme adventurists who claim “NO FEAR” do not impress me.  Caution is not cowardice.  Lack of fear is not courage.  Real courage is doing what you need to do to accomplish your goal despite your fear.

Risk Management implies an ability to change individual risk factors. Impossible. Risk Assessment, however, implies that a means person see clearly the risk factors, mitigate ones that can be mitigated, then accept the outcome from that risk.  Mistakes add to our risk, but even if you do everything right, inherent risk persists.  For that reason, we must be honest with ourselves. Be clear. No justifications. No assumptions. See what’s actually there.

  • 19 March 2017
  • Number of views: 3559
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1 comments on article "Risk Management vs. Risk Assessment"


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12/15/2018 8:15 AM

Nice blog. I would like to share it with my friends. I hope you will continue your works like this. Keep up the excellent work. You have a magical talent of holding readers mind. It is something special which cant be given to everyone.

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