Michele Wucker, Innovation, Opportunity and Risk – InnovaBuzz 548


Michele Wucker, Gray Rhino & Company

Our guest in this episode is strategist and best-selling author Michele Wucker who coined the term “gray rhino” as a call to take a fresh look at how we respond to obvious, probable, impactful risks. She founded the Chicago-based advisory firm Gray Rhino & Company and is a former media and think tank executive. Her four books include the influential global bestseller The Gray Rhino: How to Recognize and Act on the Obvious Dangers We Ignore and the recently released sequel, You Are What You Risk: The New Art and Science of Navigating an Uncertain World.

In our conversation Michele talked to me about

  • the link between risk, opportunity and innovation;
  • understanding your risk fingerprint and risk perception to help create ideal conditions for innovation;
  • the many unconscious influences that affect our decisions in regards to risk.

Listen to the podcast to find out more.

Soulaima Gourani in episode 517 introduced us to Michele.

Listen to the Podcast

Support the Show

To support the show and join our Flywheel Nation Community head over to innovabiz.co/flywheelnation. This is where you can meet and talk with our guests and other fans of the show. The only way to access this community is through the purchase of a digital access token – it’ll cost you less than a cup of coffee! Permanently bookmark this episode by purchasing the episode token here. 50% of all revenue from this episode token will go directly to our guest; the other 50% goes towards supporting this show. Think of it as a way to support the guest and tell them that you loved their show.

Recognizing risk starts with self-awareness. Start with being aware that we have a tendency to look away from the obvious. @wucker on #InnovaBuzz podcast Click To Tweet

Show Notes from this episode with Michele Wucker, Gray Rhino & Company

Key points and takeaways from this episode include:

  • The gray rhino is a metaphor for the scary thing we can see but don’t necessarily do anything about, because it’s “gray”.
  • Recognizing risk starts with self-awareness. Start with being aware that we have a tendency to look away from the obvious.
  • Diversity and listening are important to consider all points of view and exploring potential risks.
  • Developing a risk profile of individuals in a company and of the whole organization provides valuable perspectives to identify both opportunities and risks.
  • Diversity of thought is important, as is diversity of risk tolerance. Each of us has a different risk perception.
  • The more knowledge and information we have about a particular situation, the more risk we are willing to tolerate.
  • The hardest “gray rhino” to deal with is one where you need to let something be trampled.
  • In the recruitment conversation, ask about the biggest risk the candidate has taken and also ask what’s the biggest risk you’ve passed up on. That tells you a lot about what’s important to the candidate.
  • There is a clear correlation between risk taking and innovation and creativity and this correlation is strongest with social risk. Often, the most outspoken team member is the most creative.
  • Being humble enough to reach out to people who can act as a “sounding board” for you, is a superpower.
Diversity of thought is important, as is diversity of risk tolerance. Each of us has a different risk perception. @wucker on #InnovaBuzz podcast Click To Tweet

The Buzz – Our Innovation Round

Here are Michele’s answers to the questions of our innovation round. Listen to the conversation to get the full scoop.

  1. 1 thing to be more innovative – Be self-aware particularly when it comes to risk.
  2. Best thing for new ideas – Walking in the park with my dog, particularly near water.
  3. Favourite tool for innovation – My network of friends and professional contacts all around the world.
  4. Keep project/client on track – Use tracking tools to assess where you are in the process, where other stakeholders are and where people who have the power are.
  5. Differentiate – Ask “What’s my Gray Rhino” and figure out what to do about it and how you can do better.


Think about the big, obvious problems in your life. Pick one of them, imagine it as a rhino with the name of it tattooed across its horn and ask yourself what you’re doing about it, how you can do a better job and start really holding yourself accountable to taming that gray rhino.

Reach Out

You can reach out and thank Michele through her website, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Suggested Guest

Michele suggested we have a conversation with April Rinne, author of Flux, and Genevieve Thiers, Co-Founder and CEO of Entertainmint, on future InnovaBuzz Podcast episodes .



Cool Things About Michele

  • Her books have had translations published in Hungary, Korea, China, Taiwan, Norway, and Brazil.
  • Michele’s earlier career was as a journalist, author and think tank executive at the World Policy Institute, Chicago Council on Global Affairs, International Financing Review and Dow Jones.
  • K-Pop band BTS (방탄소년단) in their song Blue & Grey, which expresses depression and anxiety in the color blue and grey used the gray rhino metaphor. Says Michele “It’s not a given that you don’t take action, just that you are more likely than you think, to ignore a gray rhino. Recognizing that gives you a choice.”
The hardest "gray rhino" to deal with is one where you need to let something be trampled. @wucker on #InnovaBuzz podcast Click To Tweet

If you’d like a peek behind the curtain, of this show, go to innovabiz.co/flywheel – there you’ll be able to get your very own Digital Token which will give you membership of the Flywheel Nation Community, where you’ll have direct access to our amazing podcast guests, as well as a short audio program that walks you through the entire InnovaBuzz Podcasting Process. We have minted just 30 copies of this digital token so get in quick before they’re snapped up!

Listen to the Podcast


Jürgen Strauss

Dr. Jürgen Strauss is The World's Best Human-Centred Podcasting Coach and the only Podcast Innovator with the signature bright yellow headphones, who masterfully crafts human connection for high-impact achievers in a vibrant community. You can find Jürgen on LinkedIn, The InnovaBuzz Podcast, The Flywheel Nation Community as well as on Innovabiz' InstagramTwitter, Facebook pages and his personal Photography website.  

Leave a Comment