Tsunami Stones

 

One year ago Japan saw its biggest natural disaster ever. Or was it? Was it possibly its biggest ‘man made disaster.’

Brendan Greeley’s podcast on the Re-insurance industry’s embrace of failure talks about the difference between ‘natural disasters’ and ‘man made disasters’…

  • “Most of the things that we think of a natural catastrophes are actually man made. There’s one researcher who put a fine point on it. He said, ‘There is no such thing as a natural catastrophe. There is an event…a natural event. The catastrophe happens if we are not prepared for the event.”

Such a line between ‘natural’ and ‘man made’ failures gets macroscopically vague in the controversial area of climate change…

  • By the way, re-insurers are very clear eyed about climate change. They are under no illusions that it’s not happening because they have too much capital at stake to stick their head in the sand. They believe that they can almost cancel it out with adaptations. Things like better building codes for roofs. Things like making sure that beaches are built out.”

In short, there are no real ‘acts of God’ absolved of any human responsibility. Only very human failures. And many of those failures have both deliberate efforts to embrace them for future generations. As well as a critical balancing act which harkens Leadership and Management…

  • “Cultures remember risks in different ways…There are monuments to storm surges all over the coast in northern Germany. There are yearly processions to places where floods happen in Italy. And there are the ‘Tsunami stones’ that are set all over the coast of Japan above the waterline of the last tsunami. And the stones read ‘don’t build below this point.’ So societies have ways of remembering 50 and 100 year risks. Sort of reminding the next generation that there are things you shouldn’t do. Places you shouldn’t build. Those tsunami stones didn’t keep people from building beyond them anyway. You have to wonder if there is a value to forgetting. If you are always focused on the 500 year risk, then you miss 499 years of upside. [Re-insruers] have an interest in encouraging us to build on the coast, to engage in economic activity, but to do it in a responsible way that gives them clients in the future.”

This business insight from an industry who very being is premised on risk provides a superb articulation of Leadership and Management…

Leaders engage in economic activity; Managers do so in a responsible way.

May Tsunami Stones of all types memorialise the embrace of failure and enshrines its lessons.

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