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Mastering Catastrophic Risk: How Companies Are Coping with Disruption

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A profound and insightful look at how company leaders prepare for and respond to shocks and crises that threaten their business.

Successful firms strategically manage and are more accurate in their assessment of large-scale risks. Doing so is increasingly challenging given the pace of change, whether financial, technological, regulatory, or environmental. Mastering Catastrophic Risk provides real-world practical insights into how large companies are responding to this new reality and develops a framework for smarter thinking about events that can damage a business.

As leading authorities on risk management, strategy, and company leadership, Howard Kunreuther and Michael Useem take us on a groundbreaking tour of firms' decision making process. They demonstrate how improving readiness for and resilience against future shocks is now an integral part of company strategy. Using the "DISRUPT" model they have developed, they highlight the seven primary Drivers of disruption: Interdependencies increase exposure; Short-term focus results in limited vision; Regulations require change and constrain opportunities; Urbanization increases the costs of disasters; Probabilities of disasters have increased; and Transparency has enhanced public awareness of problems and impacts on firms' reputations.

Some disruptions can be anticipated, while others arrive without warning. Their onset stresses decision makers, impairs company operations, and may even put the enterprise at risk. The bottom-line: business leaders and their governing boards face ever more challenging disruptions and must be ever more on guard. If your company is hit tomorrow, will it bounce back, or drown?

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Kunreuther Howard
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Howard Kunreuther is the James G. Dinan Professor of Decision Sciences and Public Policy and Co-Director of the Center for Risk Management and Decision Processes at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

Michael Useem is the William and Jaclyn Egan Professor of Management and Director of the Center for Leadership and Change Management at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

Prologue: On a Sunny Day

PART I. A More Risky Era
Chapter 1 Risk on the Agenda
Chapter 2 Impact of Severe Events
PART II. Enterprise Decisions for Managing Disruptions
Chapter 3 From Intuitive to Deliberative Thinking
Chapter 4 The Risk Analysis Cycle
Chapter 5 Risk Management Praxis

PART III. What Disrupted Companies Do
Chapter 6 Crisis at Lufthansa and Deutsche Bank
Chapter 7 From Reactive to Proactive Boardroom
Chapter 8 Corporate Giving for Disaster Relief

PART IV. Reaching Vital Stakeholders
Chapter 9 Disclosing Threats
Chapter 10 A Two-Edged Sword
Chapter 11 Safeguarding Value
Chapter 12 Managing Disruptions and a Checklist for Action

Epilogue: On a Rainy Day

About the Authors


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Business Ethics
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