The IKEA Approach to Risk

Known globally as The Risk Doctor, David has been working in risk management for about 30 years. He has worked in 48 countries on every continent except the Antarctic (too cold!), with clients in most industries.

Would managing risk be easier and more effective if we adopted the IKEA approach to documenting the risk process, using fewer words, clear illustrations and simple tools?

IKEA is the world's largest furniture retailer, with over 250 stores in 25 countries supplying about 12,000 products. The IKEA catalogue is published every year with 55 editions in 27 languages for 35 countries. Many people will be familiar with the iconic blue and yellow buildings, with a standard internal layout presenting home furnishings in naturalistic settings. IKEA products can be found in millions of homes around the world, characterized by functional design and clean lines.

Most IKEA furniture is designed to be assembled by the consumer, so that people can build the furniture from the components when they get it home. This requires particular attention to the user instructions, to avoid unnecessary frustration and mistakes when the customer tries to assemble their new furniture at home!

IKEA user instructions use as few words as possible, with lots of pictures to illustrate the required actions. This is supported by an intuitive design which tries to make it obvious how the piece of furniture should be put together. The goal is to make the task of self-assembly foolproof, so that anyone can construct the furniture correctly just by following the simple instructions and using a few …

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