Property Casualty

What Can We Learn from Potato Salad and a Glass of Water?

Jerry Ouimet
Jerry Ouimet

Spoiler alert: I’m not going to give you our secret family recipe for this delicious side dish, but one interesting part of making potato salad is how we alter the state of the two key ingredients to make it. There is an old saying that the same water that softens the potato also works to harden the egg. This relates to the change in state of the two key ingredients under the pressure of boiling water and how the water is the same, but the egg and potato are changed forever.

I know what you may be thinking. “Jerry, what in the world does this have to do with risk management?” Stay with me…I have a point. But, to get to that point, I need to give a few more examples. It will all come together, I promise.

OK…back to the examples. Cooking with water heated to 212 degrees is just one of the many uses humans have discovered for this abundant resource. We all know that water covers 2/3 of the Earth’s surface and makes up the majority of our bodies. Growing up in the land of 10,000 lakes and the headwaters of the Mississippi, we didn’t think about water much. It was abundant, clean, safe, and always available. Whether we use water for power or we heat it for cleaning or cooking, water proves its usefulness over and over again.

As previously stated, boiling water impacts objects differently based on the state of that object. What condition the object is in before it gets into the boiling water will determine its state when it comes out. Other interactions with boiling water can cause terrible burns and can be the source of much pain if it’s not controlled or contained.

To protect ourselves from this potential danger, we need to contain water, manage water, and respect water while it’s actively working for us. Finally, we need to thoughtfully dispose or recycle it so we can safely go about our business.

Here’s where this fits into risk management. To me, risk has all the properties of water. It’s abundant, it’s a shape changer, it covers everything, and it always seeks its own level. While it’s ever-present, it also boils up and can overwhelm its users. Learning to channel risk requires a plan and tools. If we do it well, it can give us power similar to a dam, and if we don’t, it becomes a flood and a disaster.

As risk gets heated and boils, it can become an amazing tool…but only if we contain it, manage it, and know how it will impact us. Appreciating risk is the first step to containing it and mastering it. Just like our bodies need water to live, we need risk to create opportunity. Learn how to enjoy the risk and not drown in it!

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