“You can’t minimize tomorrow’s risk with yesterday’s strategy!” – Futurist Jim Carroll
A few shots from my keynote for a few thousand occupational health and safety professionals at the 2019 National Safety Council annual conference in San Diego. In just a few short months, their world of workplace safety risk would be consumed by Covid-19.
The issue of ‘risk’ is an interesting one to take on from a keynote and research perspective. Through the years, I’ve done numerous keynotes around the ‘future of risk‘ theme, going as far back as 2003 in a customized talk for Towers Perrin that examined the issue of ‘future hyperconnectivity risk’ – i.e. what happens in a world in which everything and everyone is constantly connected and plugged in.
All of these talks have included one main focus: the most critical risk you need to manage is the one you don’t yet know about! And in the era of acceleration, when the world around us is changing at the pace of exponentiation, it’s the unknown risks that will get us every time.
We can’t properly manage future risk if we don’t know what it is we are mitigating! Case in point – in the world of manufacturing, we might be busy preparing our facility to manage complex new Covid safety issues. And yet at the same time, social distancing protocols are accelerating the adoption of robotic technology. And it’s the arrival and acceleration of specific cobot technology – cooperative robots ‘freed from the cage’ that work in close proximity to humans – that is really accelerating workspace risk. Is that on our risk horizon? Probably not – we’ll react to it, rather than be proactive.
To properly manage new risks, we need to have a clear understanding of the many trends that might impact our future, the speed with which they might become a part of our world, and potential strategies to minimize their impact. Yet, how can that be done when our every waking moment is trying to manage the massive volatility that comes with Covid-19 and an eventual return to work?
We do that by abandoning yesterday’s strategy, reinventing ourselves with a mindset that moves from a focus on todays’ issues to thinking more about tomorrow’s reality.