Predictable surprise

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A "Predictable Surprise" describes a situation or circumstance in which avoidable crises are marginalized in order to satisfy economic and social policies.


Max H. Bazerman and Michael D. Watkins define "predictable surprises" as problems that

  • at least some people are aware of,
  • are getting worse over time, and
  • are likely to explode into a crisis eventually,
  • but are not prioritized by key decision-makers or have not elicited a response fast enough to prevent severe damage.

The problems behind "predictable surprises" tend to require a significant investment in the near term that will not pay off until later. This could involve changes to established organization culture and/or changes that competing interests do not benefit from.

Examples of predictable surprises[edit]


  1. ^ Watkins, M (2007)BusinessWeek (December 17) Subprime: A Predictable Surprise
  2. ^ Irons, L (2005) Homeland Security Affairs Hurricane Katrina as A Predictable Surprise
  3. ^ Bazerman, M (2006) Climate change as a predictable surprise.Climatic Change 77:79-193