Humans are bad at understanding the risk. The example above is from the US Airways plane that Captain Sullenberger landed on the Hudson River. It’s a picture of the passengers and crew standing on the wings waiting for rescue. (First – planes can float?!?).
You can’t easily tell, but the majority of passengers are NOT wearing life jackets. In fact only 33 of the 150 passengers had them on. Only four people had them on correctly (fastened). Imagine that you just survived a one-in-a-million event and you don’t take the precaution to survive the far-more-common death by drowning.
Note the Hudson River is about a mile wide between Manhattan and Hoboken. If the plane is exactly in the middle, and let’s face it, it probably was, that’s a half-mile swim. Very few people can swim a half-mile. Oh! It was also February! The water is damn cold – in the fifties.
I think about this when I’m managing projects. Risk management is hard. Understanding and evaluating risks are hard. Predicting probability is hard. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it but understand we’re not good at it. I always reserve time – it’s better to have it when something bad happens. And it usually does.