Risk Management Book Recommendations for Police Chiefs

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This is the second in a year-long series where I share my top risk management reading recommendations. These are the books I regularly consult regarding the discipline of risk management and related issues. Each of them gives you guidance on how to recognize, prioritize and mobilize solutions for the risks you face in your organization.

My best tip this month is that in addition to these book recommendations, I also recommend that you read the harvard business review, MIT Sloan Management Review, Foreign Affairs, psychology today and The Wall Street Journal follow trends and topics of interest. And before you dismiss the Wall Street Journal as just a “trade publication,” I can assure you that every day I read something that directly applies to public security operations.

Last month, I shared some tips for taking notes and summarizing key points from books I’ve read. Let me know what works for you, then check out my reading suggestions for February:


The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

By Nassim Nicholas Taleb

When Donald Rumsfeld was Secretary of Defense, a reporter asked him what worried him at night. He replied that he was most concerned about the “unknown unknowns.” Many people laughed at that phrase, but anyone associated with risk management knew exactly what he was talking about. Dr. Taleb lays it out in detail and, more importantly, gives some thoughts on better ways to look at things so you can spot “black swans” ahead of time. It really is brilliant work!

Also, take its prequel, “Duped by chance.” Not as fun as “The Black Swan”, but still a good read.

The gray rhinoceros: how to recognize and act on the obvious dangers that we ignore

By Michele Wucker

While “The Black Swan” explains how to recognize and act to deal with the “unknown unknowns” that sometimes arise and cause us big problems, Michele Wucker explains how difficult it is to deal with these “unthinkable” events because the most of our tragedies are not “black swans” but rather “gray rhinos”. They are very clearly running towards us, but for many reasons we are unable to get out of the way and our inaction results in tragedy. A good read with many practical examples.

An economist walks into a brothel: and other unexpected places to understand risk

By Alison Schrager

The title caught my attention, but I wondered what my fellow airline passengers would think if they saw me reading this book. Would that get me banned by the TSA? Schrager is an economist and she has an interesting view of risk management. If you visit Amazon and read the reviews of Robert Merton, General Stanley McChrystal, Adam Grant, and Tyler Cowen (all great writers in their own right), I think you’ll be impressed. It’s a fun read and filled with interesting stories and observations that will come in handy, whatever your profession.

Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Evidence at Our Peril

By Margaret Heffernan

If you’ve attended one of my conferences, you know that I focus on solving the “problems that lie in wait” in your organization. Too often people in the organization are “blind” to these issues. There are a number of reasons why this happens, and the author of this great book identifies the problems and offers solutions. It’s a great piece of work and should be read by anyone in a leadership position in any organization.

That’s all for this month. Let me know what you think of these books and share your leadership and risk management reading recommendations. Email [email protected]

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