Want to know what’s on the radar screen for economic and technological risks? Or is your interest more in societal and environmental threats? The Global Risks 2012 report from the World Economic Forum has something for everything. It breaks risks out into five global categories – the four we’ve just mentioned, plus a fifth, geopolitical risks. While some of this is beyond the sphere of influence of most individual companies or associations (for example, the militarisation of space), other categories list risks over which they may have more control.
Technological risks for example include critical systems failure, cyber-attacks, and incidents of data fraud or theft, as well as the failure of the intellectual property regime. The report maps these and other risks onto a handy Global Risks Landscape grid, with horizontal and vertical scales of likelihood and impact, respectively. Cyber-attacks rate the highest in their category on for likelihood, and second highest for impact. Another interesting model is the star-shaped Global Risks Map, with its “centres of gravity” of major risks and their “satellites” of further, related risks. The centre of gravity for the technological category turns out to be “critical systems failure”, which logically also rated higher than cyber-attacks for impact.
The report also has a special feature on the combination of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster that hit Japan in 2011. Some of its comments on lessons learned from these incidents might apply to organisations of any size coping with disasters. They include building in flexibility and resilience into response structures, the value of interoperability with emergency services, and the benefits of planning for multiple hazards to increase inherent resilience.