Risk Intelligence: Learning to Manage What We Don't Know

Overview


Too many executives think risk management is strictly for technical specialists. In Risk Intelligence: Learning to Manage What We Don’t Know, David Apgar challenges this misconception. The author explains how to raise the quality of your risk analysis—-thus enhancing your “risk IQ”—-by applying four simple rules:
1) Recognize which risks are learnable—and reduce their uncertainty by discovering more about ...
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Risk Intelligence: Learning to Manage What We Don't Know

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Overview


Too many executives think risk management is strictly for technical specialists. In Risk Intelligence: Learning to Manage What We Don’t Know, David Apgar challenges this misconception. The author explains how to raise the quality of your risk analysis—-thus enhancing your “risk IQ”—-by applying four simple rules:
1) Recognize which risks are learnable—and reduce their uncertainty by discovering more about them.
2) Identify risks you can learn about the fastest. The higher your learning speed, the more a project is worth pursuing.
3) Take on risky projects one at a time—learning about the risks underlying each before moving to the next.
4) Build networks of business partners, suppliers, and customers who can collectively manage new ventures’ risks by playing distinct roles.

The book provides two tools for improving your risk IQ—the Risk Intelligence Audit and the Risk Scorecard—and concludes with a 10-step action plan for systematically raising your managerial and organizational risk IQ. Your reward? Smarter business decisions over time.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
When confronting a business book with a title like Risk Intelligence: Learning to Manage What We Don't Know, it's easy to think first not about corporations and competitive advantage but about foreign policy and the specter of terrorism. So it should come as no surprise that David Apgar, despite his pedigree as a former McKinsey & Company consultant, has made news by applying his risk intelligence strategies to formulate an imaginative if unorthodox plan to secure the future of Iraq. Apgar's political proposal likely has little bearing on his book's value to the long-term survivability of your firm, but it does illustrate the versatility of his risk thinking and the rules that undergird it. All in all a provocative how-to for extending risk management far beyond finance -- to embrace a business's entire transactional network.
Michael Kaplan
Thought-provoking ... Mr. Apgar's analysis of the life cycle of a business risk is particularly fruitful.
—The Wall Street Journal
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781591399544
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press
  • Publication date: 8/22/2006
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 210
  • Product dimensions: 6.27 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author


David Apgar is a managing director of the Corporate Executive Board, a best practices research organization serving senior executives at more than 2,500 leading institutions worldwide. He has incorporated the ideas of Risk Intelligence in a course on Risk Management and Development at Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies. He lives in Washington, DC.
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Table of Contents

1 Changing your approach to risk 1
2 Separating learnable risks from random ones in business decisions 23
3 Scoring your risk intelligence (or risk IQ) 63
4 Conducting a risk strategy audit 105
5 Building networks that can adapt to risk 143
6 Raising your risk intelligence systematically 183
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Interviews & Essays

A Message from the Author

Why is the U.S. repeatedly playing catch-up as unexpected security, military and foreign affairs reversals ambush western, and especially American, interests? The list keeps growing longer -- joining the accelerating tragedies of Iraq and Afghanistan are fast-deteriorating situations in Sudan's Darfur region, Somalia, Lebanon, and even Russia, while Iran and North Korea build nuclear weapons and threaten their neighbors.

Risk Intelligence: Learning to Manage What We Don't Know argues only an adaptive approach to uncertainties like the security risks these countries present will help avoid the serial surprises besetting current US foreign relations and military campaigns. Its lessons, drawn partly from the rich field of business strategy and competition, have three strong implications for U.S. foreign and security policy today.

The first implication, and the book's main point, is to make a clear-eyed inventory of your information advantages and disadvantages in adapting to any new class of risks. For example, Western experience with the fall of Communist regimes in Eastern Europe, the first Gulf War, and the Balkans was just not as relevant to the prospects for postwar stability in Iraq as the experience crucibles of the countries' potential insurgents -- namely Chechnya, Afghanistan, Kashmir, and Lebanon. The great strategic benefit of assessing your relative information advantages in dealing with a risk -- what the book calls your risk intelligence -- is that you can make the assessment before taking the risk.

The second implication is straightforward: avoid initiatives of borderline value where your risk intelligence is low. U.S. military planners could have known they would face a disadvantage in adapting to changing postwar conditions in Iraq compared to likely adversaries, for example. The advantages that even second-hand experience in Chechnya, Afghanistan, and Kashmir would give Islamic militants in exploiting changing conditions in Iraq were predictable. Understanding your risk intelligence -- a matter of assessing the risk assessors -- is crucial in evaluating elective risks.

The third implication recognizes that we don't always have the luxury of avoiding a risk. Where we don't, we must maximize our risk intelligence -- we must absorb lessons and exploit every source of information -- in order to adapt to strategic change as quickly as possible. As a counter-example, the U.S. government has repeatedly taken the opposite approach in Iraq. Rather than apply lessons from the military's trial and error approach in testing the effects of redeploying troops to Baghdad in the summer of 2006, the administration proposed a further troop surge in the closing days of the year. And rather than narrowing uncertainty as to whether its Sunni community sees a viable future in a unified Iraq by proposing governance alternatives for debate, the administration has insisted on pursuing a single constitutional option for the country. We simply don't know if Iraqis would prefer some kind of partition -- perhaps one quite different from an ethnic split of the country.

To adapt as fast as possible to changing risks, Risk Intelligence identifies the five critical elements of your base of information and judgment -- the amount, surprise, relevance, and diversity of your related experience, as well as your information-sharing practices -- that you can inflect. It provides a program for enhancing your ability to adapt in situations where it's too late for risk avoidance. David Apgar
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