Opening up the black box of 'unreflexive modernisation'

innovation, risk regulation and the games of uncertainty and risk

Hooman Attar, Richard Badham, Paul Couchman

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contribution


This paper opens up the black box of risk in modem societies- how risk is managed in practice at the early stages ('fuzzy' front end') of product innovation. A particular focus is on the practice and process of converting the anxiety of uncertainty into manageable risks. We intend to illustrate how management of risk in innovation selectively attend the dynamics of uncertainty, tacitly accept a sanitized discourse on risk- one that ignores broader socio-political understandings of uncertainty. Therefore, this study's exploration of socio-technical dynamics of innovation aims to extend our understanding of the role of uncertainty in risk management. It draws on the theories that range from 'sense-making' to 'decision making', from 'reflecting' to 'framing' and 'producing norms'; from 'cognitive-scientific theories of risk' and 'fire-fighting' to 'coping with anxiety'. By spanning these literatures the paper advocates a new way which recognizes the challenges that have to be faced in developing a broader legitimate socio-political understanding of risk. It explores the role and function of the classical rationalistic accounts of risk and prescriptions for its management in the analysis of innovation - characterising these as a 'risk game'. In addition, it seeks to integrate and elaborate the insights of the 'risk society' theories in an account of the dynamics of the 'uncertainty game' that we posit as being an inevitable component of all risk regulation in practice. The outcome is a framework for looking at 'risk regulation' in innovation, offering a basis for understanding and reflecting upon how risk is managed in practice, and how it might be 'improved'.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 12th APROS International Colloquium
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 2007
EventAsia Pacific Researcher in Orgnaisation Studies International Colloquium (APROS) (12th : 2007) - New Delhi, India
Duration: 9 Dec 200712 Dec 2007


ConferenceAsia Pacific Researcher in Orgnaisation Studies International Colloquium (APROS) (12th : 2007)
CityNew Delhi, India


  • risk management
  • risk
  • uncertainty
  • innovation

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