Reading the BPS Research Digest the other day threw up an interesting post on perceived risk in people who have been through earthquakes. The simple but powerful research findings show that people living in the most devastated regions appear to be least concerned by ongoing risk. Additionally, people who have close relatives who live near to the heart of the earthquake report less ongoing concern with the threat of repeat issues.

This got us thinking… interesting how being close to the centre of “risk” starts to make people immune to the potential severity and impact of events – a little like a leadership team who become desensitised to the enormity of a change process they are going through because they have spent so long talking about the change and in so much detail, that they have adjusted very effectively to the reality of the new world that they will be leading in. Contrast this with the people who are far from the decision making epicentre and how much risk they perceive in the enormous ramifications associated with the brave new world that they are being asked to implement, having had little time to internalise what’s going on.

Step in the close relations… it seems the earthquake research reinforces the very obvious importance of the “human factor” in managing perceived risk in the business world. If the people reporting to any leadership team see them as “close relations”, who we understand in detail, have frequent and high quality communication with and who we look forward to seeing, then the chances are risk associated with leadership decisions will be lessened. However, if the leadership team feels like distant relatives that we only hear from when a birthday or Christmas card drops through the door (when we’re supposed to hear from them), then we won’t have the same quality of connectedness that allows us to share the risk immunity that the leadership team have afforded themselves.

There’s certainly nothing new in the obvious implications of this research. However, the new thing would be if leadership teams used the blindingly obvious findings to change their behaviour, rather than simply carry knowing the blindingly obvious but behaving the same as always.