The winding rivers of risk management

In the novel Time and Again by Jack Finney, he writes about Einstein’s theory of time travel this way: “we’re mistaken in our conception of what the past, present, and future really are. We think the past is gone, the future hasn’t happened, and that only the present exists. Because the present is all we can see. It’s only natural. (Einstein) said we’re like people in a boat without oars drifting along a winding river. Around us we see only the present. We can’t see the past, back in the bends and curves behind us. But, it’s there.”

Since risk management is about predicting the impact and likelihood of future events I will borrow Einstein’s river analogy to explain.

As the risk manager drifts forward along the river she knows that there is something around the bend. But what is it? If she is observant enough to see small rocks in the river right now, she can use that knowledge to predict that there may be larger ones around the bend. And if she watched too many cartoons as a kid there is a good chance that a giant waterfall may be around the bend and she will plunge to her death. Or there may be no peril at all. She won’t know until she knows.

Any auditor with a cheap pair of hiking books and some rope can tie up the boat and walk back to a bend in the river to see the past; but to be a great risk manager one needs to be able to imagine the endless possibilities of hazards around the forward bends and ensure one is prepared for all of them.

Pick your risk manager carefully and don’t presume just because someone with boots can walk to the past they are qualified to drift into the imaginable future.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *