Black: Self Centrism can be problematic within the risk management profession

Warren Black says that solipsism is the enemy of modern Risk Management.

What it is and why does it matter?


Solipsism describes a state of self-centrism, whereby someone comes to see themself as the centre of all reality, and thus by default, any experience or observation external to their’s own, is either invalid or untrue.

Solipsism can manifest in many philosophical forms but is often described by adjusting Descartes’ famous theorem; I think, therefore… I am the centre of the entire universe!

Solipsism however is not so much the arrogance of believing you are the centre of the universe, as it is the ignorance of believing that it is only your experiences that are valid. The idea that other people could be finding great success with the very thing you personally are opposed to, appears to escape those who are Solipsistic and thus their high disdain for those whose experiences differ.

Within Risk Management specifically, I can't help but notice that solipsism is particularly rampant and can be viewed within most topical debates. It's almost as if risk professionals have a blatant intolerance for any person whose experiences differ from their own. As a practical example, just try posting on any of these topics

• The value of risk matrices/heat maps in leadership decision-making
• The limitations of ISO 31000 in controlling complex, macro risks
• The unreliability of Quantitative Risk Methods in predicting future outcomes
• The limitations of Compliance in a world demanding Innovation

Try it and then watch just how many strongly opinionated and intolerant views materialise from "risk experts". Apparently, the risk profession has no shortage of devout missionaries spreading their own specific gospel.

Now of course there is nothing wrong with having a preferred "Go-To" risk method, but pure solipsism, whereby all other possibilities are completely discarded, is fatal in this modern age. The premise that there can only be one valid way, my way, does not serve the modern problem.

Consider how our working world is currently facing a multitude of complex, connected, shifting macro threats (a.k.a. a Global PolyCrisis). In turn, both Complex Systems & Natural Resilience theory, teach us that complex, disruptive phenomena cannot be controlled through standardised, single state methods. They simply lack the variety & agility to keep up with a problem that is both multi-dimensional and continually shifting. In short, they fail to comply with Ashby’s Law.

Being inflexible in one’s control methods is thus a fatal flaw when approaching modern, macro risks. Appointed risk officers need to rather seek out diversity, agility, innovation, critical thinking and contextual relevance in their control options. That is the only way our modern, macro threats will ever be successfully mitigated. Definitely not through compliance, standardisation nor an intolerance for variance

But hey, perhaps I too am just being Solipsistic in my expressed views... hmmm... you decide?

Warren Black is Principal Adviser - Infrastructure Risk, Resilience & Assurance. He is an Engineer, Risk Professional and Complex Systems’ Thinker who has particular interest in understanding how the complexity sciences may offer a better means to controlling emergent risks within highly complex, operating environments. He can be contacted via LinkedIn here:

Opinion pieces or "Op-Eds" are the home-made bombs of the publishing world. So long as they meet editorial standards, are not intentionally offensive with a view to causing hurt or insult and are relevant to our field of endeavour, We will look at submissions.

We like contentious, we like contrarian views. We don't like pretty much any -ism . We recognise that Opinion pieces are one person's view and are not balanced (if they are balanced and reach a reasoned conclusion, they are probably more suited to the Articles section).

To submit an Opinion piece, please complete the Contact form.