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What is the difference between risk and resilience? What appears to be a simple question is anything but.

This article appeared in the December on-line version of Professional Security magazine, which can be found here.

Risk and resilience are, in fact, opposite sides of the same coin. The former is an interpretation of a vulnerability to, and the likelihood of, a specific danger that focuses responses on preservation and restoration – to avoid, retain, transfer, or mitigate the risk usually follows. The latter, on the other hand, is more a behavioural and structural response to, or consequence of, a changed set of circumstances that assumes recovery of the status quo ante will not be possible – adaptation to the change follows.    

The election of President Trump, the referendum on Brexit and, of course, the spread of the Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) virus – to name but a few significant milestones in the recent past – have shown that the while such events were on many radars and risk registers, the consequences have been beyond anyone’s expectations. In fact, we have been caught short as the standard risk assessments for such mega-events have proved inadequate. Although no crystal ball could have foretold the immense impact that each and all have had on the local, national and global scenes, they have revealed our unpreparedness to cope with major change.

The notion of preparedness was a major theme of a webinar held by Resilience First with Fusion Risk Management Inc. in December on the theme of transitioning from risk to resilience. The message for all was to invest in preparedness and resilience – to deal with the unexpected. Planning and responding to risk are not cost free but not doing so is worse. As Lord Toby Harris, a speaker at the webinar, graphically illustrated: “˜We need to be prepared for not only the “˜black swan’ event (previously unobserved, hard to predict, high-impact) but also those “˜black jellyfish’ (known but more complex that may have a sting) and “˜black elephants’ (known and in plain sight but with which no one wants to deal).’ “˜We have to move beyond admiring the problem and embed resilience widely in anticipation. Creating widespread resilience will allow “˜herd immunity’ to develop so that the wider community is better prepared for future crises. Every organization has a role to play in this wider resilience.’

Other selected key points from the webinar included:

  • Managing to be actively resilient is good management. It means an organisation is agile and innovative. It also means empowering people and engaging with the community. As a result, an organisation is more likely to be efficient.
  • The line between efficiency and resilience, however, is a fine one and one does not know where it lies unless it is tested. People are beginning to put more weight on resilience than efficiency this is an incredible shift in mindset.
  • What has happened with Covid-19 has in a way been an opportunity. It has permitted us to move away from the belief that as long as one gets more efficiency then anything goes. The notion that resilience is not something that happens in a silo on an isolated basis has gained strength. Rather, it is about the unexpected interconnectedness of things.

It is clear that management models based on the traditional linear approach to risk management appear no longer able to meet the demands of systemic or significant dangers which can be both volatile and complex. Instead, there is momentum to shift to a resilience management model than focuses more on the preparing for the consequences of dangers in a generic sense rather than the causes of specific dangers which we cannot foretell.  

A whitepaper by Resilience First and Fusion Risk Management Inc. on this topic, scheduled for release in mid-January, looks at the impetus for change and the reasons for searching for new approaches. It goes on to explore nine different but important solutions that should be incorporated into any new model. Written by different contributors, the report looks at better horizon scanning, better preparedness, elevated collaboration and communication, improved culture, enhanced leadership, advanced technology, improved safety, and better agility and adaptation. Taken together, the report points to a new direction where enterprise risk management transitions to enterprise resilience management.

For a report on the webinar and to secure a copy of the whitepaper, see

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