The Mystery of Courage

Recently a reader of the newsletter alerted us to the role of courage in risk management.

To be honest – and no offence to our dear readership – I could not see the clear link.

Until, that is, a particular book was pointed out.

The book – The Mystery of Courage – was written by William Ian Miller is Professor of Law at the University of Michigan.

In reading about the book McLeod Governance came across a fascinating review by Air Marshal Sir Timothy Garden from King’s College London who noted:

Nor is courage seen as an absolute value for a given individual.

Perhaps the most interesting discussion is over the well documented decline of courage when exposed to continuous high levels of risk.

In World War 1, officers were of little use after nine months of operations unless they had had a few weeks’ rest.

A study of soldiers in World War 2 showed that after about 200 days of combat they had become so cautious as to be ineffective.

In even more hazardous situations, courage declines yet more rapidly.

Troops in Normandy in 1944 were in a vegetative state by day 60.

Some armies recognised this phenomenon, and made the necessary arrangements to keep their troops at peak performance.

British troops were rotated in and out of the front line so that they would have 4 days rest for every 12 of combat operations. The Americans were less accommodating to their men in World War 2, keeping them at risk for 40 days or more.

Reading that review and parts of the book on Google Books made us wonder what role courage plays in risk management.

At what point does the quality of a risk management framework deteriorate because it is under constant attack?

That is – is there such a thing as a resilient risk management framework?  

One that can exist without the activation of the courage of those that are subject to its jurisdiction?

We always thought there was but perhaps the mystery of courage has proven us wrong.

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