Know Risk is a community education program designed by the Australian and New Zealand Institute of Insurance and Finance (ANZIIF) to improve our understanding of insurance and how it relates to managing the many risks we all face in life.
What’s more risky, eating Japanese or Michelangelo’s David?
When people ask me what I do for a living, I proudly tell them that I promote the work of artistic master Michelangelo. This is usually followed by a brief pause where I convince myself that the other person is imagining me bounding up the steps of a museum in Florence, to dust the statue of David. But I quickly come back to reality when they ask me what my job entails. You see, I work as a Risk Manager for an insurance company. What could that possibly have to do with Michelangelo, I hear you ask? Ok, I admit everyone asks me that same question! But if I tell people I work in risk management straight up, they get the wrong impression. They usually give me a knowing look and then say something like “ah, so you’re one of those people who stop us having fun”. Thankfully I’ve learnt to groan inwardly and resist the temptation to retaliate with something along the lines of “you wouldn’t know what fun was if it jumped up and bit you on the …”. Anyway, I’m sure you get the picture.
But you know risk management really isn’t about stopping people from doing things. We’re not the fun police. Rather, risk management is about getting people to stop and think before they do something. It’s about weighing up the pros and cons before you act. We’ve all done things that, with the benefit of hindsight, we wished we’d stopped to think about before we’d done it. Like the time I got carried away with the joys of Japanese cooking. I devoured a whole raw octopus only to suffer unimaginable food poisoning. Just the thought of it still turns my stomach a decade later! But managing risk is not about stopping doing the things you enjoy. I still eat Japanese at least once a week, but I’ve weighed up the risk and decided that whole raw octopus is not for me.
So let’s get back to the link between Michelangelo and my work. Michelangelo was a true risk taker—he stopped to think about the pros and cons before embarking on his work. He didn’t just hope for the best. Michelangelo’s statue of David is critically acclaimed for so many reasons, including the stance he chose for the biblical hero. David’s combination of an intense expression and a relaxed pose are thought to represent the moment between someone making a conscious choice and then taking conscious action. Much like our approach to risk really. That is, take the time to stop and think before you choose what to do. If you’re still not convinced, I’ll leave you with a quote from Michelangelo – “A man paints with his brains and not with his hands”.