How Developed is Your Risk Awareness?

You have probably heard several times that you should be risk aware, but you may not have thought much about it. Risk awareness is a somewhat abstract term, but something that is essential in our daily lives, in business and in projects, so that we do not face problems or misfortunes. This article will show you what risk awareness is, how it is created and how you can promote risk awareness. Curious? Then read on immediately!

What is Risk Awareness and Can It Be Learned?

Risk awareness is the extent to which a person or organization is aware of potential or actual hazards. A definition of risk awareness is:

Risk awareness is having an understanding of what risks exist, what impact they can have, and how to deal with them, but also constantly keeping an open eye for new risks.

Can risk awareness be learned? Everyone’s risk awareness increases with age and the experience and knowledge that one acquires over time. A small child is not aware of risks. It does not yet have risk awareness. For example, they have to learn not to touch hot cooking plates and that roads are dangerous.

It is best to learn these things before something happens! The older you get, the more experience and knowledge you have because you have experienced minor or major accidents and learned from them (lessons learned) or because your parents, teachers, TV show, etc. have made us aware of dangers. This helps us to better assess certain dangers in life and to protect ourselves from them. My experience shows: Self-experienced accidents are deeply imprinted in the risk awareness!

How to Raise Your Risk Awareness

Risk Awareness - Report Phishing

Risk awareness can, and should, always be actively enhanced further. For example, by taking a deeper look at risk management and risks. Not everyone likes to do that! Companies, for example, promote IT risk awareness among their employees by having IT specialists periodically send phishing emails to all employees with hyperlinks that should not be clicked. Let me tell you, it is very embarrassing to click on such a hyperlink. It happened to me once in a stressful situation. Since it was a test of the IT department nothing happened. But such actions clearly raise the risk awareness of every employee and imprint themselves on the risk consciousness.

You Must Constantly Expand Your Risk Awareness

Risk awareness should constantly adapt to new circumstances and be “updated” in order to be able to act in a risk-aware manner. There are constantly new potential hazards that you need to be aware of. The Covid-19 pandemic, for example, represents such a new potential danger, although there have been pandemics many times in the past – only we were not affected. Computer hackers always try to catch us with better tricks. In such situations it would be bad to learn only from your own experience, but here you should have acquired knowledge beforehand.

On the one hand, you can be aware of risks you know about, and on the other hand, good risk awareness helps you to assess situations that are new to you. If you are a risk-aware person, then you automatically ask yourself in many new situations in daily life: What could happen here if I behave like this? What do I have to watch out for here in order not to come to harm?

How to Increase Risk Awareness in Projects

Risk awareness and risk tolerance is a somewhat abstract topic in projects. But as a project manager, you have a big influence on how project risks are managed and how decisions are made during the project.

Especially in projects where you are creating something novel, often complex, and working in a complex environment of technology, stakeholders, suppliers, laws, etc., a strong risk awareness is very helpful in identifying risks. A healthy risk awareness is also crucial when it comes to identifying emergent risks. That is, discovering risks that are emerging and have not been previously known or noticed.

Just as companies can raise the risk awareness of their employees, it is also possible to improve the risk awareness of project team members and Stakeholders. It helps to have a small risk management training session where you explain the purpose and benefits of risk management. You may think that this is trivial. But from my point of view it is not! Of course, this should not be a one-time measure. You could also consider which measures could motivate the project team to think about the risks they are confronted with on a daily basis and then report them. The project manager is clearly a role model here, he must be able to convince and be creative.

By increasing the risk awareness of the project team and the stakeholders involved, the project manager can use their eyes and ears to a much greater extent and thus has a higher chance of project success.

Acting Risk-Conscious in Everyday Life

Here are a few simple examples from my private life regarding risk awareness. Since my office at home is one floor up, I always carry my coffee from the kitchen up the stairs to the office during my morning break. It has happened to me twice that I stumbled up the stairs while lost in thought – with the coffee cup in my hand. Can you imagine what happens then? Unpleasant! When this happens to you twice, it inevitably imprints itself on your risk awareness. Whenever I go up the stairs now, whether with coffee or a good bottle of wine – I’m on high alert that I won’t trip. This will be the same with other stairs.
Even when driving a car, for example, I am actively aware that I am not distracted by interesting things that would require a deeper look to satisfy my “interest”. The risk is too high for me! As a wine drinker I am aware of the risk, more than 1 glass of wine per day can increase the risk of cancer. Do you know which group of people must have an extremely high risk awareness? Mountain climbers, for example, come to mind here. They have to be aware of the risks they take almost every step of the way and constantly reassess them..

Having a pronounced risk awareness does not mean going through the world with fear of danger and painting a black picture. It means consciously assessing one’s own actions and the environment/conditions in everyday life to see whether they could pose potential dangers.

Although you may have never considered the term risk awareness, your risk awareness works for you every day and protects you from problems and misfortunes. Be aware of it and encourage it!

Here You Can Find Even More Knowledge

Would you like to learn more about how to make your projects more successful with Project Risk Management? My book Project Risk Management – Practical Guide takes you an important step further!

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Posted in Risk Management.