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What Is the Key to Successful Risk Management?

Posted by Aviation Safety Student on Feb 16, 2018 6:01:00 AM

How to Manage High Levels of Risk Effectively

What Is the Key to Successful Risk Management?

As the former Commander of the International Space Station, it is not surprising that in interviews, Chris Hadfield often stresses the importance of effective risk management. Whether for career or pleasure, every aviator experiences a considerable level of risk. This is epitomized by the life of this former astronaut.

Nothing but the thin walls of a pressurized enclosure, hurtling through space at unimaginable speeds, lay between his small team onboard the space station and the cold eternity of space. In such circumstances, one small mistake could mean the difference between life and death.

As a leader, Hadfield was not only responsible for his own safety but that of everyone on board. "How could such high levels of risk be managed effectively, and how can I apply this to my flight training?" were some of my thoughts when considering the life of this successful aviator.

Using the Power of Negative Thinking to Manage Risk

Hadfield often mentioned something he called, "the power of negative thinking." In an interview, to illustrate this idea, he used a playful example that involved a Bengal tiger. He explained that if the ferocious animal were suddenly to appear during the interview, he would be sure to enter into a fatal state of panic.

However, if he expected the attack and had years to prepare for it, he explained this would not be the case. He would come up with multiple plans to deal with the problem and practice executing them. That way, when the tiger did finally arrive, he would be ready to take on the challenge. (Ogrodnik et al.)

Hadfield describes negative thinking as empowering.

Successful Risk Management Thoroughly Explores Risk

In order to be mentally prepared, a successful risk manager explores and analyses all avenues of risk. That way, if something does go wrong, the person knows exactly what to do and can act promptly as the situation demands, instead of being frozen by fear and uncertainty.

Oftentimes, people are taught that positive thinking is good for the mind, whereas negative thinking is to be avoided. However, in the case of risk management, Hadfield argues that envisioning things going well simply leaves aviators unprepared. In inherently risky situations like flight, he says it is paramount we imagine the worst-case scenario.

The most effective way, therefore, to minimize risk is to overcome the reactive mindset and adopt a proactive mindset.

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Proactive Risk Management Mindset Eliminates Risk

Proactivity can reduce or eliminate certain risks entirely.

It is easy for a pilot to become overwhelmed and disoriented in an unfamiliar and dangerous situation. Being as organized and practiced as possible allows pilots to focus their mental energies on reacting effectively to immediate circumstances. In the case of an engine failure, pilots certainly cannot afford the time to question their procedure!

From experience, I know that for any air exercise I do, being prepared and organized allows me to think clearly and execute the procedure effectively. I can only imagine how beneficial this would be in an emergency situation.

I also know how important preparation is from my experience of skydiving solo. In the case of a parachute malfunction, the skydiver only has seconds to react and carry out a life-saving procedure.

Related Proactive Risk Management Articles

Proactive Mindset Key to Risk Management

Through my learning as a pilot, the wisdom of Chris Hadfield, and my own experience, I can confidently say that a proactive mindset is key to successful risk management.

How do you manage risk at your company?

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Last updated September 2023.

Topics: 2-Safety Risk Management

Site content provided by Northwest Data Solutions is meant for informational purposes only. Opinions presented here are not provided by any civil aviation authority or standards body.



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