Monday, November 18, 2013

"Events beyond our control"

"So what you're saying is that you specialize in events beyond our control?"

I don't know how I've never come to this somewhat eccentric description of operational risk management myself.  At cocktail parties, I usually say that I specialize in the unexpected, in things that go bump in the night.   But I'm starting already to refine what he said.

ted aljibe
Tacloban, The Phillipines

Photo of tornado damage in Washington, Illinois.
Washington, Illinois tornado impact this past weekend
A cask of nuclear fuel is lifted by workers during operations to remove fuel rods from a spent fuel pool at Tokyo Electric Power Co's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture, Japan, on Monday. Picture: REUTERS
Fukashima nuclear rod being lifted some hours ago.

My work is all about identifying events both within and beyond our control so we can plan in advance, thereby reducing both the magnitude, impact and financial loss that results from such events.  Three recent events are shown above, but businesses also sometimes find themselves in events beyond their control when their intellectual property is stolen, or when their online site is compromised.

What's so exciting about what I do is that it's both worldly and academic.  And I'm right out there on the edge, working with some of the best minds available, while teaching the next generation from examples that litter our universe right now of loss and mismanagement.

I was reminded of the intellectual vortex I frequently sit in this weekend, when Mike Crandall sent over his review of the book we'll be publishing by the end of the month, a second volume in a series of research notes.    Here's his take:

“This second volume of Annie Searle’s Reflections on Risk continues her tradition of bringing critical issues facing our society to the forefront through a careful combination of education, collaboration and inspiration. The essays in this book are a result of her mentorship and guidance of students in the University of Washington Master of Science in Information Management program at the University of Washington Information School, and provide a window into the varied and complex issues facing individuals and organizations as we move further into the Information Age. The background and insights provided in this work should be required reading for all; they illuminate the numerous and diverse challenges we face in managing and securing our information assets in the digital world, as well as providing a glimpse into the minds that will be shaping our future. “

·   Michael Crandall, Senior Lecturer and Director, iAffiliates Program, University of Washington Information School

Thanks Mike, and thanks to the unnamed executive who made this tidy summary of the work.  There are 14 authors in this second volume, and we'll be featuring some more extended discussion here of the work when we are closer to publication.

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