Monday, September 18, 2017

No Risk Regulation

By Rick Nason, PhD, CFA
Partner, RSD Solutions Inc.
What if there was no risk regulation?  What if your organization did not have a risk department, nor had any mandatory risk reporting?  What would change?
Ironically it is quite possible that your organization’s risk management would get better.  I have written before quite extensively on risk homeostasis, but to bring it down to earth and out of the fancy terms, consider crossing by either jaywalking in between intersections or crossing at the crossing signal at the intersection.  In which situation are you paying the most attention?  In which situation are you more risk aware?  In which situation are you more risk “alive”?
In his popular book David and Goliath, author Malcolm Gladwell talks about the “inverted U” effect.  The inverted U effect is when adding an element (in our context risk management) has an initial benefit.  However, adding more of the effect starts to have diminishing gains and then adding more starts to produce negative effects.  Too much is often worse than none at all. 
A trivial example is ice cream.  Having a half scoop of ice cream is better than just having a quarter scoop.  Likewise having a full scoop is better than half a scoop.  However, having to eat 50 scoops of ice cream is likely to make you very sick and wishing you had never even heard of ice cream.
So I ask again; What if there was no risk regulation?  What if your organization did not have a risk department, nor had any mandatory risk reporting?  What would change?  Has your organization gone past the point of the inverted U?

Friday, September 15, 2017

Abundance and Paucity

By Rick Nason, PhD, CFA
Partner, RSD Solutions Inc.
Sometimes when I sit down to write blogs I have an abundance of decent ideas to try out and see how they look on the written page.  Other times, like now, I have a paucity of ideas.  That I guess is one of the artifacts of being a living, thinking human.
The abundance / paucity cycle however also seems to apply to organizations.  Sometimes they have an abundance of ideas and the challenge of management is to try and prioritize which projects will be pursed and which ideas will have to survive a waiting time if they are ever to see the light of day.  Other times there is a paucity of ideas and the troops are generally marched off to an offsite to develop inspiration that sometimes produces results, but more often produces a wasted 72 hours for all involved.
So what’s the deal with your risk department?  If you have an abundance of ideas, how do you go about prioritizing them.  If you have a paucity, how do you generate new ideas?  Or do you simply think that all the good ideas for risk management have already been thought of?

Friday, September 1, 2017

Passion 2

By Rick Nason, PhD, CFA
Partner, RSD Solutions Inc.
In a previous blog I wrote about the desirability of passion for risk management over simply knowledge and intelligence about risk management.  I briefly argued that risk managers who are passionate about risk management tend to be more effective than those who simply know a lot about risk management.
I believe there are many reasons for this – enough that would fill a book.  However, one that readily comes to mind is that passion is contagious, while knowledge and intelligence is not.  A passion for risk management (or anything else for that matter) tends to circulate and catch on.  When others outside the risk management function become passionate about risk management then risk management is almost certain to be effective.  After all, one of the current risk catch phrases is that “risk management is everyone’s job”.  That statement is totally vacuous if there is not a positive culture around risk management.  A positive culture starts with passion, while knowledge frequently kills the culture.  (What was your favorite subject in school – was it the one where the teacher was passionate or simply knowledgeable about the subject?)

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Passion 1

By Rick Nason, PhD, CFA
Partner, RSD Solutions Inc.
In my life I have been very fortunate to be around many very intelligent people and many people who are very passionate about their profession.  Passion and intelligence are not mutually exclusive, nor are they substitutes for each other.  You can be quite passionate about something, yet somewhat ignorant of it.  Likewise you can be quite intelligent or knowledgeable about a field yet have little or no obvious passion for it.
What I have noticed however is that people who are passionate about something also tend to be the most effective in it.  The same cannot be said for intelligence or knowledge.  Possessing intelligence or knowledge, while desirable, does not automatically make one effective. 
In my experience this also holds for risk managers.  Those risk managers who are passionate about risk management tend to be the most effective.  Those who are simply the most intelligent or knowledgeable tend to be quite ineffective (again in my experience).  Ironically though, those who are the most passionate also become the most practically intelligent and the most practicably knowledgeable.  Hmmmm…  Maybe it is practical knowledge and practical intelligence that I should be blogging about.  For now, I’ll stick to passion as the key ingredient.

Monday, August 28, 2017


By Rick Nason, PhD, CFA
Partner, RSD Solutions Inc.
Lots of jokes have been made about AI (Artificial Intelligence); Artificial Ignorance and Artificial Imbecility are two that readily come to mind.  AI is a tool, and a very useful tool at that – in my opinion.  However, AI does not replace the human factor.  AI does not understand the human factor.  AI cannot (almost by definition) deal with the paradigm shifts caused by the human factor – namely human creativity.  Likewise, AI is not so good at dealing with or predicting seemingly random human stupidity.
The point that the good risk manager remembers is that virtually all risk is human in nature.  Humans are real.  Humans are not artificial (okay, some reality TV stars – and former reality TV stars – are very artificial).  While AI is a very helpful risk management tool and a complement to human wisdom and intuition, ultimately you need humans to understand and manage humans.  Risk is human, and so ultimately the final word in risk management should be human as well.