Lookout! It’s a Risk Blindspot

August 14, 2020

Are risk professionals seeing more than what has been ingrained in them? Have all risks been identified and documented? The likelihood of this is NO! Simon van Wyk describes these as risk blind spots. It is often the risk blind spots or in other words those risks that were not thought of that cause the most damage be it reputational and/or financial. Risk professionals work on the basis of frameworks but now is the time that risk management should evolve into a broader spectrum and for us to think outside of the box.
(Cheryl Keller: BarnOwl)

It is becoming more and more apparent that risk management needs to evolve beyond merely principles, frameworks and processes. Back in 2012 I wrote a piece which discussed the ideation that risk is both multi-scalar and multi-dimensional (see link https://journals.co.za/content/civeng/20/6/EJC124257). Now, seven years later it appears to be ever present often manifesting as a blind spot which results in suboptimal performance (be it at a business and/or project delivery level).

What is a risk blind spot?

The simplest manner in which to explain the concept is this…how many times in your career have to attempted to anticipate and identify risks associated with a specific outcome? More than a few times, however the reality is more elusive; how many times have risks occurred that were not identified? Truth be told, these are the risks which hurt and it’s often in our blind spot.

A risk blind spot can therefore be described as a risk that occurs which was inadvertently not anticipated

Risk blind spots are inherently a challenge, in many cases they emerge as business and/or project interference’s that cost dearly (often more than just financial e.g. reputation, people, value or delayed delivery). The reality is that all businesses face uncertainty and importantly to survive and thrive, those who navigate uncertainty and adopt a means to embrace that uncertainty will invariably come out on top.

Establish your blind spots

If one could determine “context” with greater certainty, or better yet, optimise context this would lay the foundation for risk identification accuracy and help us to circumvent risk blind spots. The value proposition of contextual optimisation is therefore very clear; it defines the potential risk blind spots, meaning if you can determine the context of uncertainty, you stand a better chance identifying the blind spots that truly impact a business and/or project.

Taleb states that “it’s better to be broadly right, rather than precisely wrong” which in the context of the complexity of uncertainty facing business and project delivery remains contentious.

However, whilst being broadly right has its merits, it too can emerge as the epicenter for risk blind spots. As professionals, our challenge is to embrace uncertainty, pioneer new ways to grapple with uncertainty and use risk management as a tool to fish out the risk blind spots.

Published by
Simon Van Wyk – CRM Prof.
@Environmental Resources Management