Risk management, Maslow and Memetics

This paper argues for the management of “opportunity” within the risk process and provides practical solutions toward that end. 

“Current risk management theory and standards agree that not all risk is bad. Most of these include opportunities alongside threats within the definition of risk, and they expect the risk process to address both opportunities and threats equitably, proactively and effectively. However current risk management practice still focuses on threats. Managing opportunity through the risk process is often seen either as an optional extra, or as only for advanced practitioners, or as just plain wrong. Why is this?

This paper draws on human motivation theory (Maslow) and the latest ideas in information science (memetics) to explain the discrepancy. It also proposes practical solutions to promote management of opportunity within the risk process. 

Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs” seeks to explain human motivation, and proposes a layered series of motivators ranging from survival to self-actualization. Applying this framework to risk management reveals why individuals and organizations think first about threats, and why they see opportunities as optional extras to be addressed later if at all.

Memetics suggests that ideas (or “memes”) can be seen as packets of information which self-replicate like genes. According to this theory, the “risk is bad” meme appears to be better adapted to the current environment than the “risk includes both threat and opportunity” meme.

The paper describes how to motivate project teams and organisations to address opportunity based on Maslow’s theory, and how to enhance the competitiveness of the threat-plus-opportunity meme through memetic engineering. Applying these solutions will strengthen the ability to address opportunities through the risk process, bringing practice into line with theory.”

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Posted on 02/03/2011 by


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