Trivia: The iceberg and the Titanic

Trivia: The iceberg and the Titanic
In the dictionary, "commonplace is an expression derived from the Latin locus communis, in modern times taking on the pejorative meaning of a trivial, banal, frequently repeated expression, whereas in classical rhetoric the concept of commonplace had a literary, discursive validity, which modern use rejects, of an association of ideas (necessarily already familiar to the public, as otherwise the desired persuasion would be fruitless) making it possible to guide the interlocutor to understand (and be convinced by) the arguments”1.

It would never cross my mind to try to adopt the "classical rhetoric” of "commonplace” by attempting to give literary content to the brief remarks I am occasionally asked to make in this column, or to set out to "guide” or "persuade” the reader. This will not be my purpose. What I propose is rhetoric of "modern times”, i.e. a "trivial, banal, frequently repeated” theory, but one which in many instances is little practised. 

"Commonplaces” are the daily practices, whether of people or organisations, of being driven by conduct that conforms neither with the best practices of behaviour nor with the safety measures designed to prevent accidents. Now if these random risk factors are properly understood and previously assessed and quantified, this understanding, assessment and quantification, albeit empirical, can contribute to the containment or non-occurrence of these accidents or at least to mitigating their consequences. 

It is in this context that the allegory of the "Iceberg” commonly appears, in which its submerged "unknown” part represents the real risk to shipping, so that for centuries it has been good practice for ships to avoid blocks of ice even if this means they have to change course, no matter how safe and fast they are. In fact it was when she neglected these good practices that the Titanic, albeit cutting-edge technically and safety-wise, sank with most of her passengers and crew. As we know, she did not even have the necessary or sufficient life-saving equipment, although until nearly the end of the tragedy there reigned an air of great confidence in her invulnerability in the first-class area when the third-class area was already flooded – as an illustrious conference speaker recently pointed out, by way of an allegory, referring to the crisis we are now experiencing. The lessons to be drawn from the "Iceberg” and the "Titanic” are that there are no "perfect organisations” or "first-class optimisms” that remain forever immune or indifferent to the consequences either of a lack of contingency planning or of attitudes and behaviour that deviate from the good practices of constantly quantifying "known” risk factors and assessing and understanding "unknown” risks, or from making assessments in order to render the goals and hope for the health and future survival of people and organisations sustainable.

In the present situation of a crisis of values, the challenge consists precisely in identifying the insufficiencies resulting from the traditional management of organisations, which are all the more evident as the behaviour deviating from good practices that led to the current uncertainties and their consequences are being revealed, and the necessary remedial measures are being determined by establishing and adopting the appropriate procedures to control the acceptable limits of risks for organisations and transferring to insurance companies or other reliable financial protection mechanisms all or at least part of the "submerged” risks that exceed the level of tolerance considered acceptable for the sustainability of organisations. 

Adapting and adopting the famous slogan, it’s "risk management”, stupid!

1 e-dictionary of literary terms (Carlos Ceia)
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