Saturday, January 12, 2008

Yin & Yang of Risk Management and Opportunity

I am doing some work with a large multi-national at the moment, having been asked to run some workshops by the Risk Management Group of the company. The intention behind the workshops for the group was to make more of the organisation risk aware. As you can imagine this was an interesting proposal for me, kind of poacher turned game keeper. I decided to take the job and do something a little differently. I devised an exercise that really turned their heads. Here is the exercise and the results. It worked like a charm after a few tweaks:
I divided the group into two sub groups at random and gave each group the same selection of quality newspapers (Financial Times, The Times, The Independent and the Guardian) for that day. I had high lighted the same stories in each and asked them to go to different rooms and read the stories.

Now remember the context, these people are on a risk awareness workshop - the aim being to get better at identifying risk.

I went to one group and asked them to identify as many risks to their operation as possible in the articles chosen and then to choose 3 more articles that contain risks for the company and do the same analysis.
The second group I gave exactly the same instructions to with one exception;to identify all the opportunities that exist in the chosen articles and then to find three more articles that they believe could present real business opportunities for the company.

Then came the cute bit. I moved each group the the others rooms to comment on their analysis without telling them that they were engaged in different activities. Oddly two of the articles they had chosen were the same!

The energy of the two groups were noticeably different. The opportunity group had a lot more energy were having fun, were enjoying the task and were really enthusiastic. The risk group on the other had had a marked lower energy, were doing their task seriously and at one point complained that the opportunity group weren't taking the task seriously.

The group who were looking for risk described the opportunity seeking groups work as not critical enough and the opportunity group were struck by the negative tones of the risk groups work. Indeed so powerful was this that the opportunity group asked if they could leave the risk groups room as they were finding the whole thing depressing.

The opportunity group produced about 4 times the number of ideas as the risk group did and just from the sheer amount of work produced in terms of writing produced roughly twice that of the risk group.

We have now run a number of these workshops with almost zero variation in results. The managers are really starting to think about the effects of risk averse behaviours. The interesting thing is the company has now taken some of the people from the risk management group and formed a new group called Business Growth with that group managers title now being Head of Opportunity. The Head of Risk still remains in an altogether greyer office!

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