• Building resilience through risk culture.

  • Empowering our clients to improve performance.

Was Aristotle a Risk Manager?

Catching up on my summer reading over the break, I was intrigued by Edith Hall’s book, Aristotle’s Way*.  What really grabbed my attention was Hall’s description of Aristotle’s process or rules for deliberation, which strongly resembled decision-making with risk in mind.

Over 2000 years ago he set down a series of rules on how to make good decisions.

Hall says that Aristotle saw an intense connection between deliberation (or decision-making) and causes and effects.  She summarises his rules as –

  • “Don’t deliberate in haste” – an ancient Greek aphorism, urging us not to rush our decision-making
  • Verify all information e.g. the decision in 2003 by Western allies to invade Iraq was based on flawed intelligence. You can’t use bad information to make good decisions
  • Consult and listen to an expert advisor who must be disinterested i.e. he has nothing to gain or lose from what you decide.
  • Consult or consider the situation from the perspective of all parties who will be affected.
  • Examine all known precedents. This is an opportunity for us to learn from what has happened before
  • Calibrate the likelihood of different outcomes and prepare for every single one you think is possible.
  • Factor in all the random possibilities you can possibly envisage. What unanticipated events might drastically affect how things proceed?


These rules are expressed in plain language.

Aristotle was very skilful at influencing his listeners, using language and analogies they would easily understand. Perhaps if we all followed his example we could be more successful in helping colleagues make good decisions around risk.

When you are supporting and advising colleagues about risk issues do you speak to them in the language of the business or do you sometimes tend to use risk management jargon?  This blocks clear communication.

Clear communication is especially important when your aim is to influence Risk Culture in your organisation.

Would you like to strengthen the Risk Culture in your organisation?  Contact us to find out how.

About the Authors

John Dawson

Carmel McDonald

John P Dawson & Carmel McDonald are the co-owners of Dawson McDonald Consulting.  They’ve been running Risk Culture Assessments since 2008 to help clients protect their organisations and build resilience.  They can be reached at info@riskculture.com.au

Check out their book with their insights into how to achieve high performance –

BUILD Your Business.  Risk Managers will also find this helpful in communicating their message effectively

To get your copy of this book, or to download a free sample chapter, click here


*Hall, Edith (2018)  Aristotle’s way : how ancient wisdom can change your life.  London: The Bodley Head.

Image: Shutterstock

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