What Do Yogi Berra, Greta Thunberg and Mark Carney Have in Common? More Than You Think

By: | December 14, 2021

John (Jack) Hampton is a Professor of Business at St. Peter’s University, a core faculty member at the International School of Management (Paris), and a Risk Insider at Risk and Insurance magazine where he was named a 2018 All Star. He was Executive Director of the Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS), dean of the schools of business at Seton Hall and Connecticut State universities, and provost of the College of Insurance and SUNY Maritime College in New York City.

As 2021 comes to a close, we can gather lessons from a year of turmoil and tribulation. To this end, I encourage the Nobel Foundation to create an award in the category of risk management.

Three individuals immediately come to mind supporting this recommendation: Yogi Berra, Greta Thunberg, and Mark Carney.

Yogi, of course, as an outstanding athlete, is the best known with multiple examples of unique risk management quotes. When a waitress asked him if he wanted his pizza cut into four or eight slices, he eliminated all risk and ambiguity with the response: “Four. I don’t think I can eat eight.”

Decisive action in the face of uncertainty. He answers the question and moves on. This is a powerful reaction to risk.

Unfortunately, he cannot be a Nobel candidate. Awards are not posthumous.

This brings us to Greta Thunberg. Previously nominated for the Nobel Peace prize, she is a vocal social activist who warns of the dangers of climate change — stronger storms, massive fires, destruction of rainforests, and warmer oceans. Pointing out these dangers is important, to say the least. She would be a candidate for the risk management award.

Next up is Mark Carney.

I never heard of him until a close friend recommended his new book. I have since learned he was a prominent international banker with outstanding risk management credentials as the back-to-back CEO of the central banks of Canada and England. Whoever heard of a Canadian becoming the head of the Bank of England? That is a discussion for another time.

In the book titled, “Value(s): Building a Better World for All,” Carney discusses at length the importance of risk management. An example:

“Just because something is uncertain is not reason enough (for risk managers) to sit on the sidelines. . . there will be consequences from . . inaction. And over time, if they can’t decide, someone else will.”

The book makes a profound, if obvious, point about values in organizations: Is a “value” limited to something that is important or useful only in monetary terms?

Does the term “value” refer to a principle or standard of behavior that is important in life, such as integrity, fairness, kindness, or equity?

This conflict between financial and humanistic values is implicit in discussions of climate change. It is explicit on the front lines of risk management in organizations.

Consider a professional risk manager in a large corporation, nonprofit, college, or government agency. What is that person’s job?

According to Carney, the goal of the risk manager should be to help the entity balance financial and non-financial values. This means:

Correctly Identify Stakeholders

Capitalism went through a period when corporations and other entities gave wealth and power mostly to owners or people at the top. We now know that employees and their families, customers, and communities are legitimate stakeholders who deserve a larger share of the pie in successful organizations.

Emphasize Non-financial Values

A successful organization reduces risk by being dynamic, resilient, honest, and fair. It is sustainable by developing long-term perspectives with humility that recognize the limits of knowledge and power.

Carney has captured the essence of risk management as organizations face complex risk and uncertainty. For his success in Canada during the global financial crisis of 2007 – 2008, followed up by his excellent book on values, he is a solid candidate for the proposed new Nobel prize.

Takeaways from the Year 

So what did we learn from 2021?

Greta reminds us we need voices that encourage us to face things that threaten us. Carney articulates the human values we need for sustainable organizations.

Even though he’s gone, Yogi plays a different role. He gives us a lighter perspective on risk management. In that spirit, let’s remember his wisdom when he reminds us, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” &

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