St Martin’s Press, April 2016
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About the Book
A “gray rhino” is a highly probable, high impact threat that gives us a choice to respond. Though it is kin to both the by-definition-ignored elephant in the room and the improbable and unforeseeable black swan, the gray rhino is both obvious and talked about. Humans are more likely to neglect them than most of us think we are –but we are not condemned to do so.
Gray rhinos are not random surprises, but occur after a series of warnings and visible evidence. The bursting of the housing bubble in 2008, the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and other natural disasters, the new digital technologies that upended the media world …all were evident well in advance. Though these examples took place in the past, the concept is intended to be used to look into the future.
Why do leaders and decision makers keep failing to address obvious dangers before they spiral out of control? Drawing on her extensive background in policy formation and crisis management, as well as in-depth interviews with leaders from around the world, Michele Wucker shows in The Gray Rhino why some leaders respond while others get trampled. She provides a five-stage analytical framework to help all kinds of decision makers recognize and strategically counter looming, high-impact threats.
Filled with persuasive stories, real-world examples, and practical advice, The Gray Rhino is essential reading for managers, investors, planners, policy makers, and anyone who wants to understand how to profit by avoiding getting trampled. Central banks and securities regulators around the world use gray rhino theory, as do business strategists, boards of directors, business continuity and emergency management professionals, insurers, and policy makers focused on everything from national security to climate change.
The international best-selling book has moved markets, shaped financial policies, and made headlines around the world in 65+ countries and 35+ languages. China, in particular, has used gray rhino theory in shaping and communicating its financial risk policies, especially around the real estate sector, since 2017. It became a frame for the ignored warnings that led to the COVID-19 pandemic and a lyric in the mega-band BTS’s pandemic-inspired hit pop single “Blue & Grey” about depression. It also inspired a critically acclaimed choreography in Australia, a Japanese jazz composition, and the name of a crime syndicate in a Japanese video game. It has been cited in commentary and in books by many of the world’s leading thinkers and policy makers.
Michele’s 2019 TED Talk, which expanded the metaphor to personal issues, has attracted more than 2.5 million views. You Are What You Risk: The New Art and Science of Navigating an Uncertain World, the well-received sequel to The Gray Rhino, was published in April 2021 by Pegasus Books.
For Book Clubs and Classrooms
Professors: if you are teaching THE GRAY RHINO as required reading in your course, send a copy of your syllabus to firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to schedule a free 30-minute virtual Q&A with your students.
Praise for The Gray Rhino:
“A carefully crafted argument in favor of concerted action in the face of our biggest challenges and most obvious dangers.” (An Editor’s Choice selection)
– In the Books, 800-CEO-READ (read full review here)
“Wucker’s wide-ranging observations should succeed in one important way. Any reader is bound to be more aware of his or her cognitive biases and stay more vigilantly on the lookout for big dangers.”
– Reuters Breakingviews (read full review here)
“This helpful guide to getting out of your own way long enough to see the rhino charging over the hill will be useful reading for managers, entrepreneurs, and risk takers of all stripes.”
– Publishers Weekly (read full review here)
“A valuable guide for individuals and policymakers who want to act when they see the lights of an oncoming train.”
– Kirkus Reviews (read full review here)
“The Gray Rhino should be required reading for decision makers in business and policy. Drawing on many examples drawn from politics and business, social and economic policy, Michele Wucker provides amazing insights into how organizations can define and confront their obvious but neglected risks. The Fourth Industrial Revolution will have many Gray Rhinos if we don’t act in time to create the necessary principles and rules to direct technology and progress in a way which deflates the risks but uses fully all the great potential.”
– Professor Klaus Schwab, Chairman, World Economic Forum and Author of The Fourth Industrial Revolution
“We are beset, globally, by unsolved problems that are simply too inconvenient for the political class to address. The rhinos are out there and all we can seem to do is avoid or clean up their dung here and there, as they get closer and closer.”
– Dan Alpert, Founding Managing Partner, Westwood Capital and Author of The Age of Oversupply
“Michele Wucker provides an updated assessment of the challenges that confront society, that need to be addressed, yet we ignore. Public officials would serve us well by getting busy addressing the Gray Rhinos that are out there, rather than waiting for the next predictable surprise.”
– Max Bazerman, Straus Professor at Harvard Business School, Co-Director, Center for Public Leadership, and author of The Power of Noticing
“Equally vital for companies and countries, this highly original book serves as a critical reorientation of crisis management strategy and policymaking.”
– Ian Bremmer, President of Eurasia Group and Author of The J Curve, The Fat Tail, and Every Nation for Itself
“If Black Swans leave one feeling helpless, Gray Rhinos teach us that we do have the power to act. In this original proposal Michele Wucker alerts us to how important it is to wake up to what’s looming before us and make good decisions about how to respond in time.”
– Noreena Hertz, author of Eyes Wide Open
“As Michele Wucker warns us: It’s not if; it’s when. This is a book for our time, when we face multiple, evident existential threats… This book reminds us that denial will not save us, and provides strategies for navigating a way forward to survival by ferreting out the opportunities born of crisis.”
– Mira Kamdar, author of Planet India
“The world urgently needs a risk-management paradigm shift. This book makes a compelling case for fixing the very risks we create, a bit more every day, or decide to ignore. When your eyes cross those of a Rhino, it’s too late.”
– Erwann Michel-Kerjan, Executive Director, Wharton Business School Risk Center and author of The Irrational Economist
“In a lucid and accessible style, Michele Wucker forces us to see the knowns we have been treating as unknowns, and teaches us to see opportunities in crisis. This book is a useful primer for rethinking how we manage everything from our personal life to the global economy.”
– Parag Khanna, author of Connectography and How to Run the World
“Michele Wucker is right. Often we can see crises coming: climate change, terrorism, financial crashes. Yet, we fail to act. This valuable book explains why. It’s a must read for leaders of all organisations, public and private as we prepare for the inevitable challenging times.”
– Kishore Mahbubani, Dean, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (National University of Singapore), and author of The Great Convergence
“Even more important than a Black Swan is a Gray Rhino: the highly-probable, high impact event we often fail to act on. This book offers some easy tips on how to move to action and create competitive advantage.”
– Paul Polman, CEO, Unilever
“The Gray Rhino offers strategies for dealing with the biggest and most dangerous weak spot for organizations, companies, and nations: the willful failure of business and policy leaders to perceive warning signals… This important, insightful, and original book will be a must read for global decision makers and thought leaders.”
– William Saito, CEO of Intecur and author of The Team: Solving the Biggest Problem in Japan
“Why on earth would we need a book to tell us to pay attention to and prepare for obvious, high probability events? Because we resolutely avoid and deny what is right under our noses. The Gray Rhino explains why and lays out a valuable set of steps to become more resilient and realistic about the threats and challenges that will redefine our world.”
– Anne-Marie Slaughter, President, New America
“A metaphor for our times.” –Emily Hough, Crisis Response Journal