Michele Wucker led a gray rhino workshop on the Reskilling Revolution at SIMWomen 2018 in Schaumburg, Illinois, on September 27.
A reskilling revolution unrivaled in size, scope and scale is upon us. Even as mobile, virtual reality, AI, blockchain and other new technologies yet to come change how companies do business and how customers consume goods and services, they also require a massive reskilling in your people. Things have never changed so fast, yet will never be this slow again. How prepared are you for this looming challenge? Are your people in the right roles with the right skills? If not, how will you get them there? Test your re-skilling readiness and hone your strategy in this interactive workshop based on the simple yet powerful “gray rhino” framework. Companies have used this flexible tool to prepare for Brexit before the vote; Asian leaders are using it to shape their AI, education, and financial policies; and your organization can harness the gray rhino to create a sense of urgency around re-skilling and develop a strategy to make it happen.
Everything I learned about management and leadership I learned at…the dance studio?
Well, yes. As a beginner student of the Argentine tango two decades ago, I used to come home reflecting on how much of what I learned from the micro interactions in class applied to everyday life. Those lessons in communication, adaptability, and teamwork stayed with me for many years, and resonate anew now that I’ve taken up the dance again.
Tango dancers, business leaders, and rising stars tend to demonstrate drive, persistence, concentration, and commitment. They also are ambitious, competitive, and impatient. These Type A personality qualities are often the ingredients for success in business and in life. But they also can lead to problems if not managed well. This is especially so for teams in which — just as in the tango — both leaders and followers share these high-performance traits.
Who gets a say in how the world deals with global catastrophic risks?
I spent a few days in Stockholm at the end of May moderating a panel at and participating in the New Shape Forum, where more than 200 people from all around the world gathered to share ideas about how to manage the big 30,000-foot high global threats.
Our host was the Global Challenges Foundation, founded in 2012 by the Hungarian-born Swedish financial analyst Laszlo Szombatfalvy. He’d made his fortune by designing and applying a financial-market risk calculation and valuation model. Now 90 years old, he focuses his philanthropy on global catastrophic risks: threats with the potential to reduce the human population by 10 percent or more.
Opinion research the foundation has commissioned shows a surprising amount of support for increasing global efforts and coordination to deal with these risks. But conversations at the Forum made equally clear that the world needs new global risk governance models that more directly involve citizens.
The global economy may well have become much flatter, in Thomas Friedman’s words, as developing countries have entered global markets. But governance of global catastrophic risks has not.
We spent three days in discussions and workshops, examining how well existing institutions are managing risks like weapons of mass destruction, climate change, unchecked population growth, pandemics, and politically motivated violence.
We also engaged with the 14 finalists for the New Shape Prize –a $5 million pool of funds to support innovation in global governance. The foundation received an astonishing 2,700 submissions from 122 countries.
I was struck by how many of the proposals honed in on one particular problem: that the loftier and grander institutions and global efforts get, the less connected “ordinary” citizens feel. And without the active participation of global citizens, the odds of success are much lower.
Can Individuals Make a Difference? A 2017 GCF opinion survey across eight countries (Australia, Brazil, China, Germany, India, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States found that three quarters of adults considered themselves to be global citizens, and substantially agreed that individuals could make a difference. An astonishing 85 percent said that they cared about responding to global risks.
Six in ten respondents considered the world to be more insecure it was than two years earlier. Only 54 percent were confident that the current international system could make the decisions needed to address global risks. In other words, people are very worried -particularly about weapons of mass destruction, politically motivated violence, and climate change. (Despite the US administration’s withdrawal from the Paris Accord on climate change, the issue still was the third most concerning to American respondents.)
Overall, 62 percent of adults -and even higher numbers among men and older participants- also felt that only organizations or groups could be effective against global risks.
Perhaps what surprised me most was that seven of ten adults (71%) were in favor of creating a new global organization to respond to global risks. In the United States, the percent has jumped considerably over the past few years, to 67 percent from 49 percent in 2014. Perhaps that’s because of the way the United Nations has been used as a political football, but given the United States’ longtime attitudes about its own sovereignty and global leadership, this struck me as unusual.
As for the United Nations itself, six out of ten adults said they were confident in it, but nevertheless 85 percent overall thought it needed reforms to improve its ability. More than 90 percent of respondents in Brazil and India thought so.
At the same time, 62 percent of adult respondents believed they could personally make a difference on global issues. The number was even higher among people who considered themselves to be global citizens, among women and young people, and in most emerging countries. (China was an outlier, with only 47 percent of adults saying they could make a difference.) Nearly as many –58 percent overall—felt that a single individual could negatively impact global cooperation on catastrophic risks.
Are these results contradictory? Yes and no. Individuals can feel that they have a role, but that for such a role to be effective, others need to behave similarly in a way that organizations and groups are much better prepared to catalyze.
The New Shape Prize At the closing dinner May 29, the foundation awarded $1.8 million to three projects aimed at reforming global institutions. The winning proposals reflected the need to bringing more citizens into decision making and connect them with multinational groups with the power to act.
Global Challenges Foundation executive director Carin Ism was frank in her remarks concluding the conference: the foundation knows that its odds of success are very small. However, as she pointed out, when the potential impact is big, even a miniscule chance at succeeding becomes worth a try.
The Gray Rhino is now available in Norwegian via Hegnar Media
Hvordan gjenkjenne og gjøre noe med de innlysende faresignalene som vi aller helst bare vil ignorere.
Et «grått neshorn» er en høyst sannsynlig trussel med store konsekvenser som likevel blir oversett – beslektet med både elefanten i rommet og en uforutsigbar sort svane. Grå neshorn er ikke tilfeldige overraskelser, men dukker opp etter en rekke advarsler og tydelige tegn. Boligboblen som sprakk i 2008, de omfattende ødeleggelsene etter orkanen Katrina og andre naturkatastrofer, de nye digitale teknologiene som snudde medieverdenen opp ned, Sovjetunionens sammenbrudd … alt var mulig å forutsi.
Hvorfor klarer ledere og beslutningstagere fremdeles ikke å forholde seg til åpenbare trusler før disse ikke lenger lar seg kontrollere? I Grå neshorn benytter Michele Wucker seg av sin omfattende bakgrunn innen kriseledelse og utforming av politikk og av dyptgående intervjuer med ledere fra hele verden, og viser hvordan man identifiserer og imøtegår strategisk kommende trusler som har store konsekvenser. Grå neshorn er full av overbevisende historier, eksempler fra virkelighetens verden og praktiske råd, og er nødvendig lesning for ledere, investorer, planleggere, strateger og enhver som ønsker å forstå hvordan man kan tjene på å unngå å bli trampet ned.
Pointing to the existence of a gray rhino -a highly probable, high impact danger that nevertheless is being neglected, downplayed, or outright ignored- is a way to create a sense of urgency toward addressing it before panic sets in. Senior Chinese officials have used the term extensively for exactly this purpose for issues from financial risk to US tax policy to urban fire safety, earning it a spot on the “Top Ten New Terms of the 2017 Chinese Media” list compiled by China’s National Center for Language Resource Monitoring and Research in December 2017.
In a much-commented-upon essay posted on the central bank’s website in November 2017, People’s Bank of China Governor Zhou Xiaochuan warned that China faced many gray rhinos, three in particular: macro-level financial high leverage and liquidity risk; credit risk including non-performing loans and increasing bond market credit defaults; and finally, shadow banking and criminal risk.
Shortly afterward, Fan Hengshan, vice secretary general of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the country’s top economic planning agency, warned in a commentary in the state-controlled Beijing Daily that the year to come faced many gray rhinos.
I enjoyed talking with the FT’s Matt Klein about why we don’t deal with problems we see in advance – and how to fix it- on the January 18, 2018 edition of FT Alphachat, the conversational podcast about business and economics produced by the Financial Times in New York. Each week, FT hosts and guests delve into a new theme, with more wonkiness, humour and irreverence than you’ll find anywhere else.
Other new economics books include textbooks on ecological economics, W.W. Rostow’s 1960 classic The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto, and Money Changes Everything by William N Goetzmann. The bookshelf also included texts on understanding artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and machine learning, including The Master Algorithm by Pedro Domingos and Augmented by Brett King. Very good company!
The gray rhino has continued its charge around the globe, with a front page, above the fold article in The New York Times July 23, 2017: “Let the West worry about so-called black swans, rare and unexpected events that can upset financial markets. China is more concerned about “gray rhinos” — large and visible problems in the economy that are ignored until they start moving fast.”
Here’s a roundup of some recent media coverage of China’s effort to crack down on its financial gray rhinos, including liquidity and credit risks, shadow banking, abnormal capital market fluctuations and real estate bubbles: