Risk and uncertainty

This category contains 47 posts

Risk isn’t really linear

It’s easy to talk about things which are “higher risk” and “lower risk”… and most of the time it’s appropriate. Last week Tom Loosemore used the idea well, and I’m sure we’ve all used that concept at one time or another. But we should be aware that risk (or “uncertainty”, if we’re to include positive … Continue reading

Why did the risk manager cross the road? (Or: let’s stop seeking risk)

The death this weekend of climber Ueli Steck generated not just tributes from fellow climbers, but also discussion in the media of risk taking, and whether taking risk was part of the enjoyment of climbing. It reminded me of two things: (i) a discussion on Radio 4 with a researcher who has looked specifically at … Continue reading

Feedback happens, whether we respond or not

The other day I was listening to BBC Radio 4’s Thinking Allowed, which on this occasion focused on “Platform capitalism”. This is the world of Uber, AirBnB, and TaskRabbit, in which the company in question acts as a broker between those able to offer a service and those seeking it. Being Thinking Allowed it focused … Continue reading

Specific risk guidance is troublesome

I’ve been (re)reading a bit about “risk appetite” again recently. Some of the reading includes messages saying it’s a confusing term, it’s a bad idea, or that it’s a good idea that’s really important to manage properly [pdf]. One of the things that occurred to me during this is that it’s actually very difficult to … Continue reading

Prefer a backlog to a scope

I was speaking to a colleague recently about how her teams were getting on, and she said, “I’m pleased that we’re talking more about prioritising a backlog, much less about what’s in scope. That’s really good.” And it is good news. It shows that the teams are thinking much less about a single large edifice … Continue reading

So you think elections, referendums and coin tosses are binary…?

I’ve argued before that we can act more constructively when we shift ourselves away from looking at things in binary terms. This is useful for managing uncertainty, describing risk, or just ensuring we don’t set ourselves up to fail. You can see some examples of things which look like black and white questions, but on … Continue reading

Using probability curves for constructive thinking

When I try to think constructively about managing risk and uncertainty, as well as trying to think about variability, I also find it useful to think about probability distributions. The image here is an example of a probability distribution I used in a discussion last week with the lovely people at FreeAgent. (You can see … Continue reading

Avoiding black and white isn’t black and white

Previously I’ve said that it’s unhelpful to view risk or uncertainty as black and white events that either happen or don’t happen. And I’ve also pointed out that it’s unhelpful generally to think about things in a binary manner. Happily, that’s a rule that can be applied to itself. In other words, this isn’t really … Continue reading

Complexity helps solve Olympian problems

I sometimes feel a small sense of wonder at how revealing complexity can actually help, rather than hinder, problem-solving. This complexity can be revealed by zooming out from a problem and looking at the bigger picture. I’ve previously written about how this approach can help us deal with risk and uncertainty better. Or it can … Continue reading

How does a risk expert behave?

by Matthew Leitch (www.WorkingInUncertainty.co.uk) and Nik Silver, August 2016 Some people deal with risk and uncertainty in their lives better than others. Survey evidence suggests only a weak correlation between good judgment in one kind of risky situation and similarly-good judgement in another kind, but still there is a correlation.  In this article we will … Continue reading