Data Management

Black Swan Risks

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Executive Summary

Much has been written on Black Swan type risks, sometimes treated as the risks from Unknown Unknowns. Do Black Swans inhabit the world of program management and are they truly Unknown Unknowns? In 17th century Europe all observable swans were white and by extension all swans were therefore assumed to be white. No non-white swan had ever been observed. In the 18th century, however, black swans were discovered in Western Australia and that discovery undermined the statistics of swans to that date. Previously, the "Risk" of a Black Swan was essentially nil but upon recognition that the improbable was not the same as the impossible the possibility of Black Swans became more likely.

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