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Ambiguity and therapy in risk management

Horlick-Jones, Tom and Rosenhead, Jonathan (2013) Ambiguity and therapy in risk management. EURO Journal on Decision Processes, 1 (3-4). pp. 263-283. ISSN 2193-9438

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Identification Number: 10.1007/s40070-013-0012-7


Ambiguity, the existence of multiple plausible (though possibly contested) ways of making sense of the characteristics of decision situations, can present significant difficulties for a wide range of risk management tasks. We will argue that ambiguity is present in risk management situations to a far greater extent that is commonly appreciated. The concept of ambiguity has arisen in different forms across disciplinary literatures and domains of practice. In this paper, we situate our experience of finding ways of supporting planning and decision-making processes concerned with ambiguous risks in the context of those wider perspectives. Our own efforts have employed a hybrid form of problem structuring methods (drawn from operational research and management science) and ethnography (drawn from sociology and anthropology). These engagements with organisational and inter-organisational risk management issues have led us to recognise that ‘untangling’ otherwise intractable risk management problems may be regarded, in some sense, as a therapeutic process. In this paper, we develop this therapeutic interpretation of the untangling of collective ambiguities using illustrations from a concrete problem situation. We set this therapeutic reading of decision processes in the context of wider perspectives, including those drawn from Habermas’ theorisation of communication, the sociology of science and the literature on citizen engagement and deliberation processes.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2013 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg and EURO - The Association of European Operational Research Societies
Divisions: Management
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD61 Risk Management
Date Deposited: 26 Jun 2015 13:58
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 01:45
Projects: L211252044, L211272006
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council, BP/CARR Complex Risk programme

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