Posts in category Writings

Seeking Alpha: From Black Swans to Gray Rhinos

Was the Brexit vote a highly improbable black swan or an obvious gray rhino?

Read my thoughts on Seeking Alpha July 1, 2016, to find out.

SA Black Swan to Gray Rhino

 

Observer: Why We Ignore Obvious Dangers

In this Year of the Gray Rhino, I wrote for the New York Observer about how issues that are anything but the unexpected have sideswiped the Democratic and Republican parties:

Screen Shot 2016-05-26 at 1.12.49 PMThis year’s presidential campaign is full of the unexpected. Yet the underlying issues are anything but. It’s hardly news that middle- and working-class incomes have stagnated and that Americans are fed up with a government that even squabblesover an impending public health crisis like Zika. Why, then, have the country’s two leading parties been taken aback by voters who are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore?

It’s because everyone—not just politicians—underestimates the power of the obvious problems that loom right in front of us. So it’s a surprise when inaction creates unpleasant consequences. The Democratic and Republican parties are learning this lesson the hard way.

The truth is that we get into most trouble when we’ve ignored obvious problems. I call these issues “gray rhinos” because they are huge and charging right at us and ought to be harder to ignore. Yet we miss the most important information—like calling rhinos black and white even though they are all gray.

Read the full article at observer.com

 

Inc.: 3 Questions for Startups

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 11.49.32 AMThe best companies are the ones that see opportunity in adversity, and are always willing to change. Applying the gray rhino concept to the challenges facing start-ups –or any companies, for that matter– I penned this piece for Inc.: “3 Questions to Make Sure Your Startup Can Thrive With Change”

Have you asked yourself these key questions about your organization?

LinkedIn Pulse: What’s Your Gray Rhino?

Recognize or TrampleOne of the things I’m enjoying the most about the launch of The Gray Rhino: How to Recognize and Act on the Obvious Dangers We Ignore is the way people are embracing the concept and applying it to their work, to their personal lives, and to the policy challenges facing their communities and the planet. We all face highly obvious gray rhino threats, and we all could do better -often MUCH better- at dealing with instead of denying them.

In recent workshops in Milwaukee, Phoenix, and San Francisco, I enjoyed and learned from lively discussions about gray rhinos from transportation and workforce challenges to family financial planning; to geo-economic issues like China’s economy, the clashing threats of deflation and asset inflation, the impact of volatile oil prices on the Middle East and on the global economy; the impact of disruptive technologies on various industries and the employment outlook; safety and transparency problems that now look to be widespread across the auto industry, not just isolated to a couple of companies; and ongoing business issues like evolving customer preferences and cost of customer acquisition. I loved that one workshop group even came up with a new term: limping hippos -for the things that appear to be gray rhinos but turn out to be false alarms.

Scott MacDonald of the University of Connecticut has written on LinkedIn Pulse about Puerto Rico’s debt crisis as a gray rhino: “International financial markets have already seen the problem of a slow motion train wreck with Greece’s debt problem and the European Union; hopefully we are not going to relive it with Puerto Rico and the U.S. municipal bond market.  More likely than not, a portion of Puerto Rican debt will have to be written off.”

Regina Rodriguez-Martin wrote on her Chicana on the Edge blog about how we can apply gray rhinos to personal life, not just to business and policy issues. “The ending of my marriage was probably a gray rhino,” she says. I often mention Regina’s quip at book talks and the audiences just love her perspective. On another serious note, she mentions a friend whose mother was dying, but her father only got past the denial stage when she passed away.

Dr. Aldemaro Romero Jr wrote “Academia is now facing a lot of gray rhinos,” in the Edwardsville Intelligencer. He cites the vulnerability of state educational institutions to falling funding and of private institutions to challenges involving diversity, access and endowment management. Students and parents can add to problems when they let a sense of entitlement get in the way.

In Norway, leadership consultant Lise Strand Bjarkli uses the gray rhino to talk about how businesses face market disruptions including the Fourth Industrial Revolution and “the awareness, willingness and ability each and one of us could summon to act upon swans, elephants or grey rhinos.”

A reader who emailed me this week feels that nuclear weapons are an important gray rhino, a conclusion that many respondents to the World Economic Forum’s 2016 Global Risks Report certainly shared.

Questions from audiences and readers always give me lots of food for thought. One of the first questions I nearly always get is whether Donald Trump is a gray rhino. (Look at all of the failed attempts to stop his rise; more important, though, is to look at the gray rhinos that made it possible.) What about the “Really Big One” earthquake along the Cascadian subduction zone, the subject of a Pulitzer Prize winning New Yorker article? (Highly scientific consensus: the really big one most likely is a black swan in our lifetime, but likely a gray rhino in the future; and smaller quakes are definitely gray rhinos.) The asteroid Apophis or other asteroids that might strike earth? (NASA scientists see the risk as extremely low, though several recent news articles have placed it higher.) Our polarized and paralyzed political system? A resounding YES.

That’s the great thing about the gray rhino concept: not every person may see the same gray rhinos, but the principle and framework can help everyone to take a more serious look at the things right in front of us that we don’t give the attention that they deserve.

So, I ask today: What is your gray rhino? I’d love to hear about it.

Read and share this post on LinkedIn Pulse.

WorldPost: One Drop, One Step at a Time

Mina Guli running in Chile's Atacama Desert

Mina Guli running in Chile’s Atacama Desert

On World Water Day this year, March 22, I am thinking of the increasing global urgency of water scarcity and of Mina Guli’s epic quest to wake people up and convince them that every single person can make a difference.

Some people see a problem and ignore it. Some see a problem and decide it’s someone else’s responsibility; it’s too big to make a difference on; it’s not a priority.

Then there is Mina: the rare somebody who sees a problem and does something about it. Something really, really big and kind of nuts but all the more incredible for being so crazy.

Over the past seven weeks, Mina has been running the equivalent of 40 marathons in seven deserts across seven continents to raise awareness of water scarcity. She started in Spain’s Tabernas Desert, then moved on to Jordan, Antarctica, South Africa, Australia, Chile, and finishes with a run in the Mojave Desert in California, just in time to celebrate her achievement on World Water Day.

Mina’s quest is all the more important right now, at a time when so many people feel powerless to change some of the most obvious and increasingly urgent, yet unresolved dangers in the world.

I call these highly probable, high impact threats gray rhinos.

CONTINE READING AT THE WORLDPOST

World Economic Forum Agenda: The Gray Rhinos of 2016

The top right hand quadrant of the World Economic Forum’s annual Global Risks Report is home to highly likely, high impact dangers that have not been resolved: climate change, weapons of mass destruction, water scarcity, mass forced migration, and energy price shocks. All too often, policy and business leaders neglect risks like these even after recognizing them.

I call these risks “Gray Rhinos”: large, dangerous and heading straight for us. Unlike a certain large fowl that people can only envision if it’s the right colour, black rhinos are no more black in colour than white rhinos are white. They are all grey: something that is so obvious, yet too often missed.

Since I introduced the concept of the Gray Rhino at a Thinking Ahead talk at Davos in 2013, conversations with leaders around the world have helped me develop a framework to understand the progression of Gray Rhinos and strategies for overcoming them. This framework can improve our ability to confront large-scale risks in business, organizations and policy-making.

I’ve expanded the concept for the World Economic Forum Agenda, applying the Gray Rhino framework to the top 10 risks for 2016 identified in the Global Risks Report. Read more HERE.

Books

The Gray Rhino

How to Recognize and Act on the Obvious Dangers We Ignore

Buy the book

Why the Cocks Fight

Dominicans, Haitians, and the Struggle for Hispaniola

Buy the book

Lockout

Why America Keeps Getting Immigration Wrong When Our Prosperity Depends on Getting It Right

Buy the book

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