Why risk managers are ignoring risks in daily decisions?

On April 26, 1986, the world witnessed one of the most catastrophic nuclear disasters in history – the Chernobyl nuclear accident. A series of poor decisions, underestimation of risks, and failure to consider alternative scenarios led to an irreversible disaster. This historical event serves as a stark reminder of the importance of risk-informed decision-making, not just in high-stake situations but in our everyday lives.

Understanding the challenges in decision-making

When making decisions, we often encounter several common challenges. One such challenge is narrow framing, where we limit the options we consider. This can lead us to overlook potential solutions or make decisions based on a limited set of choices.

Another challenge is not considering the opportunity cost in decision-making. Opportunity cost refers to what we give up when we make one choice over another. For instance, if we choose to spend our evening watching TV, the opportunity cost might be the time we could have spent reading a book, exercising, or learning a new skill.

The power of widening your options

Research by Shane Frederick and colleagues (1995) shows that simply being reminded of the concept of opportunity cost can significantly impact our decisions. In one study, when participants were reminded of what else they could do with their money, they were almost twice as likely to pass on making a purchase. This highlights the importance of widening our options and considering all available alternatives when making decisions.

For example, when deciding on a vacation destination, instead of simply choosing between the beach or the mountains, consider other options like a city tour, a countryside retreat, or even a staycation.

Risk-informed decision-making – a better approach 

To navigate the challenges of decision-making and manage risks more effectively, we can adopt a risk-informed approach. This involves widening our options to avoid narrow framing, considering the opportunity cost of our decisions, and using tools like decision trees to explore all available alternatives.

A decision tree is a simple yet powerful tool that can help us visualize the different outcomes of our decisions. By drawing a decision tree on a piece of paper, we can clearly see the various paths our decision could take and the potential risks and rewards associated with each path.

Another technique is the Vanishing Options Test. This involves considering what you would do if your current options were no longer available. This can help us break out of a narrow frame and consider a wider range of options.

So, the next time you’re faced with a decision, remember to widen your options, consider the opportunity cost, and don’t be afraid to take risks. After all, as the saying goes, “With great risk comes great reward.”

Are you ready to embrace risk and make more informed decisions in your everyday life? Share your thoughts and let’s start a conversation that could change the way we all make decisions.

RISK-ACADEMY offers online courses


Informed Risk Taking

Learn 15 practical steps on integrating risk management into decision making, business processes, organizational culture and other activities!


ISO31000 Integrating Risk Management

Alex Sidorenko, known for his risk management blog http://www.riskacademy.blog, has created a 25-step program to integrate risk management into decision making, core business processes and the overall culture of the organization.


Advanced Risk Governance

This course gives guidance, motivation, critical information, and practical case studies to move beyond traditional risk governance, helping ensure risk management is not a stand-alone process but a change driver for business.


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