Patrick Keady

Risk Intelligence: how to live with uncertainty by Dylan Evans (2012)






Doctors don’t have much of it, apparently.


If Dylan Evans is right then this general lack of risk intelligence (RQ) could be the root cause for complications in one in ten inpatient episodes. In his book Risk Intelligence: how to live with uncertainty Dylan Evans asserts that a special kind of intelligence is needed for risk and uncertainty.


It’s less about how much they know and more about how certain they are about what they know.  If they are too confident about their knowledge or not confident enough, then their RQ will suffer.” Evans assertion is compelling.


One explanation is that doctors have to make so many different decisions about so may different things that they don’t get a chance to build up a good model” he says.



And the deficit in risk intelligence is not restricted to doctors. Dylan Evan adds that financial regulators and bankers are weak at accurately estimating probabilities too.  This is evidenced by the lead up to, and their response to the financial crisis.


In healthcare, doctors influence and are influenced by the Board, Royal Colleges, Departments of Health and other healthcare professionals.


The relative lack of risk intelligence in the Boardroom could be the root cause for the propensity to reorganise every five years or so.


But what is risk intelligence?


It’s about having the right amount of certainty to make educated guesses” Evans says.  “Risk intelligence is about making decisions when our knowledge is uncertain, not about solving probability puzzles.”


That’s fine but are there people with good risk intelligence ?


While doctors, financial regulators and bankers don’t have much of it, weather-forecasters, professional gamblers and hedge-fund managers seem have it in abundance.


Evans argues that we can learn a lot from expert gamblers, not just about money, but how to make decisions in all aspects of our lives.


He backs this up with plenty of fascinating research findings and a wide-range of real-life examples, from the risk assessment skills of horse race handicappers to the flawed evaluations of risk that led to the financial crisis.


Dylan Evans gives several common examples of errors in our thinking that underlines our risk intelligence.


He introduces a host of simple techniques that we can use to boost our RQ and a brief test to measure our risk intelligence.


This book is a travellers guide to the twilight zone of probabilities and speculation. Evans shows us how risk intelligence is vital to making good  decisions, from dealing with climate change to combating error.


Risk Intelligence fascinates me and Risk Intelligence: how to live with uncertainty will be of interest to everyone in healthcare who is interested in improving our thinking to enhance our own lives and to improve healthcare outcomes.


What are your thoughts on risk intelligence?  Have you read the book?  Share your thoughts below.


Buy your copy of Risk Intelligence: how to live with uncertainty


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