What are some common strategies to identify and assess emerging risks or risks with a longer horizon?

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AFERM Experts Say...

This is really two different questions.  Emerging risks, by definition, represent uncertainties caused by evolving current or near-term events and conditions.  Because they are near-term, we can easily recognize changes in current events and conditions that have the potential to impact objectives and plans.

To use one of the four dimensions of risk impact, emerging risks have high urgency.  The changes and their potential impacts are either happening now or will happen soon.  For example, consider the stock market.  Stock prices change continuously, driven in large part by investors’ perceptions of the impacts of immediate changes in market conditions.  Changing conditions can have an almost immediate impact on stock prices.  By comparison, risks with a long horizon have low urgency, so they are not likely to impact objectives until well into the future.  Objectives with far horizons involve events and conditions far away from present day, and they generally have lower likelihoods.

International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC)/International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 31010 “Risk management–Risk assessment techniques” (2009) includes several risk identification techniques applicable to forecasting near-term or emerging risks.  These include Checklists, Business Impact Analysis, and Cause and Effect Analysis.  These and several others are particularly useful for identifying near-term or emerging risks because they can take advantage or our knowledge of current events and conditions.

Other ISO 31010 risk identification techniques are useful for longer-range objectives and uncertainties.  These include Brainstorming, Delphi, Structured What-If (SWIFT), and Scenario Analysis, among others.  They depend less on current knowledge than on our ability to imagine the future and assess its impacts.


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