Risk – A Very Short Introduction by Baruch Fischhoff and John Kadvany
Risk is a part of life. We take risks every time we cross the road, buy food or date on-line. We also perform ad hoc risk assessments throughout the day when we decide to overtake a slower vehicle or when we assess the freshness of the fish in our local supermarket. Many of us are tasked to make formal risk assessments at work on the small scale when we adjust our workstation chair or display screen or on a much larger scale when we initiate projects that can cost a great deal of money. Personally I deal with risk on a daily basis – though fortunately I’m not high enough up the food chain for it to be a huge issue. After years of experience in the job I can pretty much automatically list the risks to what we are planning to do, rank order them by likelihood or impact and draw up risk mitigation plans and contingency procedures if things go wrong – as they often do.
Being a rather busy person (at work anyway) I’ve never actually managed to have any formal risk training. One reason is that I’m not a huge fan of training which I usually find deadly boring. The other factor is, again at the bottom of the pool, such training is not normally considered to be hugely cost effective. We simply don’t play with that much money for it to have too much of an adverse impact if we fuck things up. But some time ago I noticed this book (inevitably whilst looking for other books in the series) and thought that it might be worth a read to see if I was doing anything hugely wrong – I didn’t think I was – or to see if I could improve things or at the very least understand the official basis of what I was doing anyway.
As it was a bit more out of my comfort zone than I’m used to I did find this book a little difficult to get into. I think that was clearly my fault as the authors clearly set out exactly what they were talking about and had some pretty good examples of the kinds of things that needed to be taken into consideration. Inevitably they bandied about terms I’d never come across before to explain things I had either picked up along the way or had explained to me quite differently. Once I got the hang of things however it all made sense. I don’t think that I learnt a great deal from this slim volume but it was nice to actually have a formal foundation and a deeper understanding to risk, risk assessment, risk perception and risk communication. I certainly found the whole thing generally more interesting than I thought I would. If you deal with risks over and above the sorts of things we all deal with on a daily basis or even if you want to understand how risk affects us all on every level you could do worse than work you way through these 150 pages.