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What’s unmanageable and what’s unavoidable

Published on 27 May, 2014

“Our mission should be to avoid the unmanageable and manage the unavoidable.”

I heard that sentence in a completely different context recently, but it seems to summarise well the mission of the security market.

If a security professional can avoid the unmanageable, (by logic) he or she can manage whatever else happens (the rest). Avoiding the unmanageable involves using whatever deterrents or preventive measures (including various technologies) to keep things from happening that cannot be effectively dealt with.

On the other hand, by managing the unavoidable, a security professional can minimise the impact of that which is inevitable. In the security context, this might include approaches to emergency response or disaster management. It’s about being prepared. “Avoiding the unmanageable” in security parlance is called prevention. “Managing the unavoidable” is called mitigation.

Thomas Friedman made the “unmanageable-unavoidable” comment in a television interview about his new book, “Years of Living Dangerously” – which sounds like a book about security, but isn’t. His book (and the quote) actually refers to global warming; that is, the climate changes that impact the world’s environment over the coming years. (Although, depending on their political views, some have questioned the impact [or even existence] of global warming.) Many scientists say it’s now impossible (or too late) to avoid the consequences of global warming. Hence the approach of “avoiding the unmanageable and managing the avoidable.”

It’s interesting to note that many of the issues our business of security deals with every day seem just as intractable as global warming. For example, crime is everywhere and doesn’t appear to be going away (i.e., unavoidable). The only solution is to look for ways to manage it effectively and minimise its impact.  (And, unlike climate change, no one denies the existence of security threats.)

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