Michele Wucker

An award-winning global thought leader with experience in strategy, immigration policy, finance, globalization, turnarounds, and crisis management, Michele Wucker draws on three decades in media and non-profit management and policy development. Her third book is THE GRAY RHINO: How to Recognize and Act on the Obvious Dangers We Ignore, which grew out of a presentation at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland in which she coined the term “gray rhino” for highly probable, high impact crisis events. The book has received praise from business, policy, and thought leaders around the world and influenced policy debates at the highest levels.   Michele founded Gray Rhino & Company in 2015 to help leaders and organizations to identify and strategize responses to gray rhino risks that are neglected despite -and all too often because of- their size.

Michele has been recognized as a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum and a Guggenheim Fellow, among other honors. Her previous leadership positions include Vice President for Studies at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs; President of the World Policy Institute, which she re-launched in 2007 in a dramatic turnaround; and Latin America Bureau Chief at International Financing Review. She also has taught master’s students at the School for International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, of which she is an alumna. An engaging keynote speaker, moderator, panelist, and facilitator, she has delivered presentations in 16 countries on five continents. She lives in Chicago.



Gray Rhino events are highly probable, give clear warnings and have high impact.  Yet all too often, leaders fail to plan for, recognize, or respond to obvious dangers, from the personal to the organizational to the political to the global level: financial crisis, industry disruptions, failing infrastructure, the aging of the workforce, climate change and more. The most successful organizations are the ones that identify and confront Gray Rhino threats instead of getting trampled. What makes the difference between leaders who respond in time and those who don’t? This provocative talk lays out a framework for recognizing Gray Rhinos and the pitfalls and opportunities at each of their five stages, from denial to action –not just to avoid highly obvious dangers, but to see opportunities where others do not.

Alternative title: “Gray Rhinos, not Black Swans: A New Way to Think about Risk and Response”


Tectonic shifts are coming in labor markets and consumer demographics, intensified by recent technological advances in additive manufacturing and machine learning. Together, they are a crash of obvious, highly probable yet neglected “gray rhino” challenges.

  • By 2050, there will be just one worker for every retiree, less than a third of the current level.
  • Robots can work, but they don’t pay into pensions, where retirement shortfalls in the U.S. alone are roughly $20 trillion.
  • Asian populations are aging even more rapidly in part because they have been more cautious about immigration than the West. The Asian Development Bank has called this demographic shift one of the largest structural challenges facing the region.
  • Close to half of existing jobs could be lost to automation of everything from scheduling to driving to legal and financial analysis.

In this provocative talk, learn about the opportunities and pitfalls that your organization, industry, country or region faces amid shifting demographics colliding with increasing automation, and strategies for getting ahead of the game.


So you know what your organization’s biggest problem is. So why isn’t it fixed? Kicking the can down the road is human nature — so much so that we often take for granted that challenges will persist. But the longer we let a problem go on, the more we lose in opportunity cost and the harder the problem becomes to fix. Learn from an expert on why organizations, individuals and policy makers don’t immediately deal with obvious dangers even when they have the power to do so, how to get out of your own way, and how to turn a crisis into opportunity. In this talk drawing on real-world examples, you will:

  • Find out why the most obvious issues often get the least attention – at high cost.
  • Understand how to take off your blinders to obvious but neglected problems
  • Learn the reasons why decision makers muddle and how to counter these obstacles
  • Get inspiration from stories of business and policy leaders who overcame the urge to stand still
  • Recognize when it’s time to recognize a problem is unsolvable
  • Learn to turn frustration into innovation.


Your presentation was engaging and thought provoking; we have received a lot of compliments on our speaker choice!
~ Ruth Elmore, The Business Continuity Institute

We all took a lot of valuable insight from your presentation and workshop. When I got back to work I had a session with my managers to identify our ‘Grey Rhinos’ and Brexit was one of them. Having identified it, we had a strategy on what we’d do if the worst happened –leaving Europe for us– so we could react quickly and put a positive spin on it to counter any potential negative effect.  We continue to meet to discuss the latest Grey Rhinos and it’s very much in our team mind-set now.
~ Leanne Linacre, ALTO

I received so many warm comments from your master class. Everything from “highly relevant” and “practical” to “greatly informative and instructional” to “expert,” “right on point” and “eye-opening.”
~ Anthony Vlahos, ExecuNet

An engaging, insightful speaker! Michele Wucker is able to demystify complex global happenings in a breezy conversational style.
Peter Marber, Head of Emerging Markets Investments at Loomis, Sayles & Co

Anil Gupta

INSEAD Chaired Professor of Strategy, INSEAD & Chief Advisor, China India Institute

Nouriel Roubini

Renowned Economist

Stéphane Garelli

World economic environment