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Coronavirus is not a black swan

A lot of risk managers are calling coronavirus a black swan event, meaning it to be an unpredictable large-scale event. There are two problems with this.


  1. It was not unforeseeable. The UK’s National Risk Register has included pandemic influenza since 2008. Organisations have had at least a decade to prepare, with outbreaks of MERS, SARS, bird flu and swine flu over recent years to keep disease on the agenda. If organisations haven’t considered it, then that’s been a failure of the risk management team.

  2. It shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the original quote by Taleb. Just because an event with large consequences was unlikely, that doesn’t make it a black swan.

Be wary of anyone who insists coronavirus is a black swan - they may be using it to cover their own failings or lack of knowledge.

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