Predictions may be imperfect, but we do have tools at hand to help us think about what developments are most likely to sideswipe our plans. Every year, analysts compile lists of top risks for investors and policy makers.
Combined and filtered, they make for a strong comprehensive list of gray rhinos that provides a wider, balanced, global view of the year’s top risks than any individual ranking can on its own.
Most of these lists appear in the first quarter. In the months since, the momentous Brexit vote, conclusion of the U.S. primary season, and evolving economic picture make it worth revisiting them as the summer winds up and markets head into the typically volatile last part of the year.
My August 11th article on Seeking Alpha lists the Top Five Gray Rhinos of 2016 in order of importance, based on the frequency and rank of their mentions earlier in the year. I’ve updated each with my view on how the outlook has evolved over the course of the year.
I sat down with Reuters Breakingviews US Editor Jeffrey Goldfarb for a conversation on The Exchange about why it’s more important to look for gray rhinos than black swans and how to keep from getting trampled. The interview aired June 23, 2016. Click the image below to view the video.
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:
This year’s presidential campaign is fullof 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.
The 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?
It’s time to pay attention to “gray rhinos,” says policy expert Michele Wucker.
Parker Richards interviewed me for this piece in the New York Observer, published April 2, 2016. “It’s not just a book, it’s a new way of thinking about the world’s problems,” he wrote. Read the full interview HERE.
Why do we choose to ignore pending doom? Good question! I had a great time talking with Justin Kaufman on his WGN Radio show, “The Download,” on March 31 here in Chicago, about THE GRAY RHINO, financial meltdowns, kicking the can, climate change, and the tricks our minds play on us with LISTEN HERE. That’s Michigan Avenue in the backdrop of the photo.
I had a great conversation about The Gray Rhino with Linda Popky on her Marketing Thought Leadership podcast recently. Linda’s a marketing powerhouse, named one of Silicon Valley’s Top 100 Women of Influence and author of Achieve Strategic Advantage with Marketing that Matters (Bibliomotion, March 2015). We talked about the importance of changing our focus from the unlikely to the highly probable events we may think are too big to impact; the three Gray Rhinos that marketers are likely to face, and why New Coke may have been the best thing that ever happened to Coca-Cola. Follow this link to listen to the Marketing Thought Leadership podcast.
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.