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Who Knows About Risk?

Posted by Dorothy Gjerdrum on February 18, 2015 at 10:52 AM

Ten years ago, there was a terrible school shooting in northern Minnesota that left 10 people dead.  Shortly after it occurred, I spoke with a school security expert about the incident.  At the time, we didn’t know anything about why the shootings had occurred and there was a lot of fear and speculation going around.  I asked him if he thought school shootings were predictable (and therefore preventable) or if they were random acts of violence.  To this day, his answer still haunts me.  He said, “Someone always knows.”

Most risk managers are well trained to predict future outcomes based on past experiences and to create top-notch risk prevention and financing solutions for those risks we can predict.  But is that enough to prepare our entities for the uncertainties of today’s world?

In my last blog, I posed some provocative questions about listening to a broader array of voices and considering risks beyond our direct control.  Let me share a great example of one university that has done just that.

A 2012 publication from The Education Advisory Board highlighted best practices in risk management among colleges and universities*.  The publication cited the University of Alberta for its independent risk management identification forum.  The forum brings together experts from outside (their array of voices) the university to verify the key risks and assumptions made in its risk register and to listen to the experts’ predictions about business, economic and government trends.  It’s a one-day meeting that provides insight into risks beyond the four walls of the campus and is a great way to force the University to consider risks beyond their direct control

Many public agencies and schools have advisory committees and citizen groups.  Why don’t risk managers do more to interact with and engage these groupsto “think forward” about emerging trends and risk?

How do you incorporate the voices of experts outside your entity into your risk management process?