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Henrik Kiertzner
head of corporate resilience at Arup


The key challenges for the 21st century, in my own field, centre on the concept of acceptable risk. The trend at the moment is for society, commerce and government to become increasingly risk-averse. The intent is noble, but the likely effect is unfortunate as this tendency also stifles creativity, entrepreneurism and originality and encourages process-driven over lively and intuitive thinking. This extends into the political sphere with increased competition for the middle ground and the consensual elimination of large issues as ‘fit for discussion’, either because they offend some sensibilities or because they, just possibly, might.

Some people even take offence on behalf of others’ sensibilities, on the basis that they ought to have been offended. If an incident occurs, someone is guilty and someone must be punished. The balance has swung too far. Some risk is unavoidable, some risks are good to take. Achievements which come too easily are no achievements at all - risk aversion prevents us from exploring our limits and finding out who we are. We should look to celebrate the taking of informed risks, to reward those who fail gloriously and to accept that accidents do occur and that, sometimes, things just happen and there is little we can do about them.



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