The Six Mistakes Executives Make in Risk Management
by Nassim N. Taleb, Daniel G. Goldstein, Mark W. Spitznagel 6 pages. Publication date: Oct 01, 2009. Prod. #: R0910G-PDF-ENG
Taleb (who wrote the best-selling books Fooled by Randomness and The Black Swan) and his coauthors argue that conventional risk-management textbooks don't prepare us for the real world. For instance, no forecasting model predicted the impact of the current economic crisis. Managers make six common mistakes when confronting risk: They try to anticipate extreme events, they study the past for guidance, they disregard advice about what not to do, they use standard deviations to measure risk, they fail to recognize that mathematical equivalents can be psychologically different, and they believe there's no room for redundancy when it comes to efficiency. Companies that ignore Black Swan (low-probability, high-impact) events will go under. But instead of trying to anticipate them, managers should reduce their companies' overall vulnerability.Of all the management tasks that were bungled in the period leading up to the global recession of 2008--2009, none was bungled more egregiously than the management of risk. This HBR Spotlight attempts to untangle the reasons that major systemic failures occurred, and to pin down some lessons for leaders and managers in the future.