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[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ Bazerman, M (2006) Climate change as a predictable surprise.Climatic Change 77:79-193


  • M. Bazerman and M. Watkins (2004) Predictable Surprises: The Disasters You Should Have Seen Coming, and How to Prevent Them. ISBN 1-59139-178-4
  • B. Tuchman (1984) The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam. ISBN 978-0-345-30823-8