We travelled to Brighton yesterday, mainly in an unsuccessful attempt to see our gradchildren. It was unsuccessful in that they have both fallen ill with 'Swine Flu'. We didn't go in, lest we get the same; so we traded presents on the doorstep with my son and daughter-in-law. We came away with an endearing orange splodge of painting from our three-year-old granddaughter which she'd created, it seems, "on Tamiflu".
But what was the risk to us really? I thought on this on the journey home. Over the last few months, adjusting for the always-sensationalist bias in the media, it seems that the risk of my probably getting Swine Flu and the impact of it on me if I did contract it have changed markedly. (In fact, some studies suggest that someone of my age and condition may have already had the disease without being aware of it.) And of course, the popular understanding of the word 'pandemic' is an unfairly alarmist one.
But this is all 'par for the course' with Risk. Our assessment of any risk can and should change. Sometimes how probable it is that the risk will occur goes up, sometimes it goes down. Sometimes its impact is considered to be greater, and sometimes the considered impact seems a lot less harmful. With risk this is all quite normal.
Once at a Leadership conference, I heard Bono say this in the context of the Aids pandemic and the apparently hopelessness of changing things:
Life is more malleable than you think, and we must wrest it from the fools.
This is quite profoundly true. Which is why a mature and dynamic approach to risk is so powerful.
Recently we launched our own Management of Risk qualification training. This really does give a positive framework and mindset for people to deal with the malleable reality of risk.
So maybe we should have just gone in and hugged our grandchildren. It's time for a reassessment.