Michele Wucker: The COVID-19 pandemic was a gray rhino running right for us

Michele Wucker

In her recent CGTN interview, Michele Wucker, policy analyst and author, opined that the COVID-19 pandemic was a gray rhino running right for us.

The COVID-19 pandemic was an obvious danger that the world ignored, according to Michele Wucker.

It was, in the words of the policy analyst and author, a “gray rhino”: a threat that is likely to be realized and has a high-impact but has been ignored by society until it is too late. Wucker explains that the concrete image of the rhino is meant to help individuals connect with risks and threats “emotionally.”


It contrasts with Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s “black swan” concept, which refers to a risk that is very rare and highly unpredictable. The pandemic, Wucker explains, was no “black swan” – it was a “gray rhino” and it was running right for us.

There have, Wucker points out, been plenty of warnings – Bill Gates gave a TED talk in 2015 about how the world was not ready to deal with a major outbreak of a highly infectious disease. The exact details were difficult to predict but the threat was still obvious. This pandemic could even be seen as a warning of the next pandemic – which could be an even bigger and nastier rhino.

Learn more about it here.

Michele WuckerAn 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.

Michele‘s speaking topics are:

  • Gray Rhino-Proofing Your Future: A New Way To Think About Risk And Response
  • Demographic Gray Rhinos: Robots Meet Aging And Migration
  • Beyond Kicking The Can: How To Stop Muddling And Innovate

Contact us to engage Michele Wucker to speak at your next conference.


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