Michele Wucker is the author of The Gray Rhino: How to Recognize and Act on the Obvious Dangers We Ignore. From her Q & A with Deborah Kalb:
Q: You define a Gray Rhino as “a highly probable, high-impact threat: something we ought to see coming, like a two-ton rhinoceros aiming its horn in our direction and preparing to charge.” How did you come up with the concept for this book?--Marshal Zeringue
A: It started out with a question—what makes the difference between the people who see a problem coming and do something, and others who don’t.
[I looked at] the Argentine debt crisis and the Greek debt crisis. When Argentina was in a debt spiral, I was a financial journalist. I wrote about a proposal for Argentina to write down a third of what it owed…nothing happened to that proposal, and nine months later, Argentina defaulted, and investors lost 70 percent instead of 30 percent.
Ten years later you have Greece. The numbers were similar, debt was up, GDP and reserves were down, the same dynamic was in play. I wrote a paper for the New America Foundation bringing up the Argentina example, saying Greece was an opportunity to learn from that mistake.
When I published about the Argentina proposal, bankers called me and said, This needs to happen. I needed to ask the question why Greece ended up being able to restructure and Argentina didn’t. I was looking for a way to describe it that was accessible.
The image I came up with was a big rhino…I didn’t know anything about rhinos! [I learned that] white rhinos are not white, and black rhinos are not black. They’re all gray. It’s obvious, but...[read on]