Catastrophic Risk : Business Strategy for Managing Turbulence in a World at Risk book cover
1st Edition

Catastrophic Risk
Business Strategy for Managing Turbulence in a World at Risk

  • Available for pre-order. Item will ship after September 6, 2021
ISBN 9780367423865
September 6, 2021 Forthcoming by Productivity Press
208 Pages 3 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Imagine that you are a corporate executive or small business owner in a midwestern city under water after weeks of extreme weather and drenching rainfall. Infrastructure has been damaged beyond repair, transportation arteries are closed, and your supply chain is broken. Families have been driven from homes, food and water are in short supply, and people are becoming unruly. Government agencies are not in a position to help. Declining revenue and partisan antipathy fueled by ideological differences have eroded confidence in government. The city is in total disrepair and unable to deliver desperately needed services. It is edging toward implosion and community leaders have turned to you for help.

Catastrophe that would have been unthinkable in earlier times is a reality in a world coming out of pandemic and facing existential threats such as climate change, inequality and global conflict. CATASTROPHIC RISK: Business Strategy for Managing Turbulence in a World at Risk challenges business to step up and assume a pivotal role with communities under stress due to prolonged exposure to risk. When powerful societal forces meet behavior that deters response to risk, the consequences of risk are exacerbated. The compounding effect of behavior on risk has opened an important role for business in mobilizing people and communities in times of crisis. It is a role that cannot be fulfilled, however, without purpose, strategy and plans sufficiently robust to overcome the threat of risk. To prosper in this environment, business will need to make a significant contribution to society as well as to deliver financial performance. For companies, this will mean involvement in community in ways that significantly depart from current practice. For leaders, it will mean new skills—contextual sensitivity, a greater understanding of behavioral dynamics, and enhanced capacity to relate to people on an emotive basis.

This book is about the relationship between risk, societal forces and human behavior—a relationship informed by the sciences that is critically important for business. Its goal is two-fold: to bring catastrophic risk to the world of business and to further business engagement in service to the common good.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1. A World at Risk

Chapter 2. Deterrents to Action


Chapter 3. The Power and Peril of Pandemic

Chapter 4. Climate Change: Default, Mitigation, or Adaptation?

Chapter 5. Social Inequality

Chapter 6. Polarization: Factions, Filters and Antipathy

Chapter 7. Changing Social Norms

Chapter 8. Navigating and Falling Behind Change


Chapter 9. Rethinking Business Purpose and Strategy

Chapter 10. Mobilizing

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Richard Alfred is Emeritus Professor of Higher Education at the University of Michigan. Prior to joining the graduate faculty at Michigan in 1980, he served as an executive officer in the City University of New York and the Metropolitan Community Colleges in Kansas City, Missouri. He is the author of numerous books among them Developing Tomorrow’s Leaders: Context, Challenges and Capabilities (2015), Performance: The Dynamic of Results in Postsecondary Organizations (2012), and an award-winning book on organizational strategy, Managing the Big Picture in Colleges and Universities: From Tactics to Strategy (2006). Over the course of a 50-year career in academe, he has consulted with hundreds of organizations in the areas of strategy, organizational effectiveness and performance, and leadership. Foresight into the future—a hallmark of his books and written works—has shaped management and leadership practice in colleges and universities throughout North America.

Dick holds a baccalaureate degree from Allegheny College and masters and doctoral degrees from Penn State University. He and his wife Pat reside in Ocean Park, Maine.


"In Catastrophic Risk, author Richard Alfred provides us the 21st Century version of Silent Spring, which foretold the risk to an earlier generation of the risk of complacency during a time of obvious, pending catastrophe. The world responded and now bald eagle populations are literally soaring. The risks we now face are on a much grander scale than we've ever seen. In this crisis, lies an epic opportunity where people will thrive on what makes us the most human: Creativity, Imagination, Invention and Innovation. These traits will unveil unprecedented opportunities for those who embrace their power on the economic, governmental, social, business, technological and entrepreneurial frontiers."

Richard Sheridan
CEO, and Chief Storyteller of Menlo Innovations
Author, Joy, Inc. - How We Built a Workplace People Love
Chief Joy Officer - How Great Leaders Eliminate Fear and Elevate Human Energy