Diverge from “cosi fan tutti”!
Feb 15th, 2023
We need to diverge from “cosi fan tutti” if we want to truly bring something valuable to our profession and the public. Some professions are open to “disruption” and thus foster innovation. However, many voices around the world comment that strategic/ operational risk assessments, including tailings risk assessments are stuck in a complacent lull.
Bring something valuable to our profession and the public is way more than doing our job diligently and perhaps having a fantastic career. Indeed, our friend Brian Ulrich recently published a blogpost with an interesting title: “Mattering”. He asks, “How can you matter“? And continues: “I mean being a part of the industry by giving something to it”.
Old habits are “mattering killers”
Unfortunately, all too often we read or hear people in our industries, mining, and the risk business:
- use old references,
- deploy obsolete methods, and finally
- refuse to use concepts that are nowadays common in many industries.
Oftentimes people build “innovation” on disguised, rebranded, renamed old ideas. Again, the compliance to “cosi fan tutti” is, alas, the meter of likely success.
At a recent conference we have heard highly experienced and well-respected professionals state: “We do not use numerical probabilities like, for example 10-3, because NO ONE understands them”. And what about opening a book? Learning so one can give something to the profession? It would be interesting to see how that person would react if, in need of surgery, the surgeon said: “I do not use endoscopy, because at this hospital NO ONE knows/understand the devices”.
Soon we may see powerful “mattering killers” raise. We refer to the blind application of AI platforms such as chatGPT prone to promote “cosi fan tutti” as the only and whole truth.
An example of “mattering killer”
So, let’s get back to risk management before we get lost in that frightening hospital.
In Fallibility and Risk, 2018, R. Long, we read that the ubiquitous Risk Matrix is not something that will likely disappear from Risk Management. That is because it has evolved to mythical status in the risk industry. Numerous studies of the matrix we have referenced in our latest book Convergent Leadership- Divergent Exposures demonstrate it. Indeed we show that rituals, icons are very difficult to eliminate even if one demonstrates their phoniness. Matrices create obscure value to subjective rankings that no one can verify. Indeed, oftentimes teams simply agreed upon rankings under unclear rules. Long states: “a numerical value (he refers to the indices of the cells: 1,2…5) is attributed (to probability and consequence) and then agreed upon as theatre associated with managing risk“.
Indeed, the Matrix is part of mythology together with other misinterpreted icons and buzzwords (black swan, grey elephant etc.) we described in our latest book. The process, the colours and the language promote confusion and ambiguity. Thus they do not help in risk informed decision-making. That is, they do not help to define strategic, tactical, and operational risks. As a result, they do not help to establish sound mitigation roadmaps.
Yet, the “cosi fan tutti” reigns. As a matter of fact, very authoritative institutions still claim industry should use the Matrix for risk management of (mega) projects. As a result specific software becomes commercially available and the ranks of users grow.
We need to diverge from “cosi fan tutti”!
Let’s strive to diverge from “cosi fan tutti”!
Back in the 50s Max Planck stated, very cynically, that scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents, making them see the light. Rather it succeeds because the old guard dies, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with the new ideas. The same reference paraphrases this as “science progresses one funeral at a time“.
We really do not need to see these extremes.
Perhaps the key is to open the debates related to professional codes and procedures to younger talents, divergent ideas, and fresh looks.
Category: Consequences, Mitigations, Optimum Risk Estimates, ORE2_Tailings, Risk analysis, Risk management
This was a fun read, the metaphor about the scary hospital carried the essence of the article through.
I’m still not entirely sure what “cosi fan tutti” means? A Google search says “women are like that” but in the context of this article I believe it’s to say the industry needs to move away from “that’s how it’s always been done”
However I agree, we need to start adopting new ways of risk management and learning so we can all understand even the quantification of risks
you got it 100%! Thanks