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The Socratic Dialogue on Risk

Discovering Your Hidden Risks 

Risk is among the most difficult subjects a management and board can face. Yet it’s the most essential for their survival. Unforeseen threats to a company’s reputation can overrun even the most intelligent business plan. The financial meltdown showed us that the largest risks can lie in plain sight, but almost no one sees them. 

How Can You Protect Your Company? 

I will lead any group of your key executives and board members to identify the hidden risks you face and develop a concrete plan to address them—all in a program that takes a day or less. Applying principles of the Socratic Dialogue to engage participants, I will elicit from them clear statements about the risks each knows is there but which may never have been mentioned or received adequate examination. 

Why the Socratic Dialogue? 

The power of the Socratic form allows participants to access perceptions they may have long held, but which have remained unexpressed because they lie outside the customary content of corporate dialogue. This guided conversation brings their insights to light through interactions with each other, the gentle prompting of the moderator, and the uncommonly open nature of the event. 

In many companies, the discussion of risk may face obstacles because it grates against an entrepreneurial culture. Or management team members may feel that expressing doubts can be unhealthy for a career. But, in the end, reasons for silence don’t matter: The failure to pursue an objective exploration of a company’s risk is a risk in itself. 

The function of the moderator is to set the stage for a discussion of the full dimensions of serious risk. He opens the event by defining the subject. Then he asks a question—either of the group or an individual—and the action begins. Through the discussion that follows, the moderator refers participants to the statements of others. He suggests variations of the problem. He prods the group to create sharper distinctions and move to ever greater mastery of the question. By the time the program concludes, participants have identified a specific set of risks and agreed on a way forward. 

The Result and the Value 

Participants leave the dialogue not only with a more highly evolved notion of the risks they face, but with an enlightened view of how productive dialogue can continue to take place when the moderator is no longer present. When participants in the dialogue come from different companies, each receives the benefit of hearing how others have faced challenges to risk and reputation—and how they create solutions. Regardless of whether participants are colleagues in a single company, or represent many, they leave with a vastly expanded view of the control they hold over their own destiny. 

Have Peter Firestein perform a Socratic Dialogue on Risk for your company or industry / professional association:

212 608 0877 / peter@firesteinco.com