Risk is something that we assess consciously and unconsciously. It can be based upon intuition – a gut feeling, just as often as it is done with deep thought. Defining what the risks are to individuals let alone to an organisation, to society, to a country or even the global economy is a very difficult task. That is because of three self-evident things, as eloquently stated by the United States Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld on February 12th 2002 at a press briefing. 

  • There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. 
  • We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. 
  • But there are also unknown unknowns; the ones we don’t know we don’t know.’ 

This idea that the things just happen – that there is risk – that we can not predict or completely understand is also at the heart of the thinking in many books. For example, some of you may have read the fascinating books by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, "Fooled by Randomness – The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets" (2001) and "The Black Swan – The Impact of the Highly Improbable" (2007). In November 2012, he published "Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder".


To believe that you have total control over your destiny, is not to recognise the self-evident truths. Thus I believe that the next best thing is to spend one's effort in influencing the future in the pursuit of productive human endeavour. By doing so I believe that the risk / reward balance is more likely to fall within the range of the expected outcomes and thus when those events arrive that fall outside the range, you and / your organisation will be better prepared.


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