Dante’s Inferno From a Strategic Perspective

When you hear the words “Dante” and “Inferno,” your initial thought is probably something like this:

  • Some guy named Dante wrote it a long time ago
  • It’s a book about the levels of hell
  • The Catholic faith has something to do with it
  • There’s something about “comedy,” but not in the traditional sense
  • I might have read the book in high school

Up until recently, that’s pretty much all I knew about this classic work. But what gems of wisdom are hidden in those lyrical texts? I decided to find out.

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What is Strategic Risk, and Why Does It Matter?

When you hear the word “risk,” you probably think of either something dangerous (“don’t do that, you could get hurt!”), or an action that is likely to fail (“if this works out, we’ll be rich; if not, we could lose everything”). But risks are actually neutral; they’re neither good nor bad, but simply describe a degree of uncertainty.

We tend to say that risks are either “positive” or “negative.” But what we’re actually describing is the outcome. If a risk brings a positive outcome, we might enjoy new opportunities and pleasant surprises. If a risk brings a negative outcome, we could experience damage, injury, liability, or loss.

The factors that contribute to outcomes are called threats. Although most threats can’t be eliminated (such as consumer purchase habits, economic instability, and increasing reliance on technology), we can definitely reduce the chance that we will suffer from a negative outcome.

I’m passionate about helping leaders to recognize vulnerabilities in their organization: areas where an attack or loss is likely to occur. In this article, I explain the importance of developing your awareness of risks in a strategic context, the “perfect blend” of strategy and risk, and suggestions for managing them.

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