VIEW FROM AIRMIC: We live in challenging times

When the Wind Blows is a book written by Raymond Briggs, the creator of The Snowman, which follows the story of Jim and Hilda Briggs in the days before and after a nuclear attack on Britain. It is shocking, heartbreaking and overwhelming as the couple try to adopt a sense of normality in far from normal times. It’s hard to read the story without being moved.

Despite Briggs being known for writing some of the most loved books for children, this is a book for adults. The book and subsequent animated film leant on the style of the Protect and Survive public information films and booklets about survival following a nuclear attack, published by the Government at the time. Today this guidance is generally viewed wryly, but at the time it served an important purpose of providing reassurance to a worried population and, as subsequent research has indicated, some of the advice was more worthwhile than we might think.

And so, whilst the book articulates the fears of the generation that grew up in the shadow of the Cold War, in a more contemporary way the book speaks to our fears today of living in through a challenging and troubling period.

The Airmic Enterprise Risk Management Forum on 6th December adopts the theme of: ‘We live in challenging times: what if, what next, what now’. A play on the expression, ‘May you live in interesting times’, widely reported as being of ancient Chinese origin (although is neither Chinese, nor ancient!), it is the sentiment of these words that is important – we live and work in a turbulent world, and the turbulence is showing no sign of calming down.

Risk professionals are demonstrating their value to the organisations they represent, through exercising their leadership and communication skills, and demonstrating adaptability and agility. In a world without respect for the silos organisations are often more comfortable operating in, risk professionals are great at cutting across these silos and building connected relationships.

We’ve already experienced a number of ‘once in a generation’ events over the past few years, and as economic uncertainty challenges cyber and climate risks at the top of the risk charts, just as we thought the green shoots of an economic recovery after the pandemic might be surfacing. This is set to widen the gap between societies that have and those that have not, potentially leading to further social and geopolitical unrest.

It’s going to be a bumpy ride, but using the analogy of the Protect and Survive guidance, don’t throw away the principles of good risk management. Instead, enhance and supplement these with new practices in managing data in smarter ways and upping the use of scenario and analysis. We might not know which monster is coming over the hill next, but there are ways that you can lessen surprises and take greater control.

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