Zombies, aliens, evil robots…and risk management?

Sometimes, when managing risk, we need to be creative – and have a bit of fun. Sometimes, there just isn’t enough past history to be able to analyze risk effectively – and high-impact, low-likelihood risks are a good example. But what about multiple high-impact, low-likelihood risks happening at the same time?

Clearly, a completely different approach is required.

So I’ve been theorizing about how to treat risk emanating from multiple extreme events simultaneously, where prevention is way, way beyond the scope of the organization involved. Think tsunami, earthquake, asteroid collision all at once.

Allow me to demonstrate by use of a Venn diagram:

Then it dawned on me: forget the risk events and causes for the moment. Identify common impacts, and direct scarce resources to mitigate their effects. Regardless of whether it is zombies, aliens or evil robots that attack, if we can truly understand the risk and identify risk mitigation strategies that address the impact – death to humans! – our risk management dilemma is solved.

Okay, there’s no such thing as Zombies, Aliens and evil Robots.

I get that. But let’s examine a real-life situation: British Columbia’s support to the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver.


  • British Columbia had experienced eight consecutive years of employment growth and a consistent annual growth in GDP of over 5%;
  • The 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre (2001) hadn’t yet happened, nor the Madrid train bombings (2004) or the London Underground bombing (2005);
  • World-scale tragedies and scares like SARS, Bird Flu, Indonesian Tsunami, and Hurricane Katrina hadn’t happened and had no recent precedence; and
  • Annual snowfall at Cypress Mountain averaged almost four meters.


  • World markets and governments were well into their second year of the global sub-prime mortgage crash fiasco;
  • The B.C. government went from a $4 billion budget surplus in 2006/07 to a budget deficit of $2.7 billion;
  • Terrorism was now a household word; Canada had troops fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan; Bin Laden had explicitly targeted Canada; the “Toronto 18” had been arrested on Terror-related charges; and we had grown accustomed to unprecedented travel security measures;
  • The H1N1 pandemic was declared by the World Health Organization in early June 2009 and remained in place until August 2010, well after the games were done; and
  • January 2010 turned out to be the Winter Olympic Host City’s warmest in 35 years and one of the main venues, Cypress Mountain, was closed to the public due to lack of snow.


Okay, but the point is that high-impact, low likelihood events do happen. They happen all the time, and they often happen at the same time. They happened to the huge project I was risk-managing, provincial support to the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

If you don’t have an effective risk management process in place, you might as well be facing zombies, aliens, and evil robots. Contact us at Enlightened Business Risk Solutions: we’ll help you survive, and thrive. Game On!

2 Replies to “Zombies, aliens, evil robots…and risk management?”

  1. Risk Management covers such a vast field, risks some which may be unknown such as aliens, evil robots etc. How does a person ever know that you have covered all the bases of risk to a client?

  2. Hi Charmaine, and thanks for your comment and question.

    To a certain extent, you have to rely on the knowledge your client has of their business area. For the most part, a skilled risk management consultant can tease that information out of the client by asking open-ended questions like, “When it comes to (objective A), what are you most concerned about? What keeps you up at night?”. That can be supplemented by questions like “What legal risks does that pose? Reputation? What’s the potential financial impact? And so on.

    Risk management is an ongoing process, so there is no expectation that it eliminate all the risks at once. Over time, however, with regular monitoring and review, it has the power to reduce uncertainty, promote achievement of goals and objectives, and maximize profits. All good stuff.


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