2020, the Year of the Black Swan (WTF Is a Black Swan)

Jul 31, 2020

Whether or not business school or upper graduate academia was or is for you, you might notice that there are all sorts of business-y buzzword phrases and/or acronyms for things that occur in the workplace. Some are industry-specific, like worrying about the AHT (Average Handle Time) of your BPO (Business Process Outsourcing), and others come from more broad areas of study like business strategy, which searches for commonalities and patterns across all industries. 

Back to present day 2020, where no matter what industry you find yourself in, we’ve all found ourselves scratching our heads at what has transpired over the last few months. This, my friends, is the ultimate black swan. 

What Is A Black Swan?

I’m glad you asked! As defined by Investopedia, a black swan is “an unpredictable event that is beyond what is normally expected of a situation and has potentially severe consequences. Black swan events are characterized by their extreme rarity, their severe impact, and the widespread insistence they were obvious in hindsight”.

The Unknown Unknowns We Should Have Known

My favorite part of that definition being the annoying insistence that the unpredictable event was “obvious in hindsight.” In fact, I found an early March 2020 opinion piece from a publication called The Week that essentially tried to disqualify the pandemic from being a black swan because we should have seen the signs. Sure, we should have used our favorite virus movies to be ready and stocked up on masks when we had the chance, but IMO (like the cool kids say, it’s ok to google it if you’re over 30), this argument only further solidifies why 2020 is indeed the year of the black swan. So is it or isn’t it? That’s what us fellow lovers of business strategy are chatting about: the unknown unknowns that we should have known. What can we learn from it? Learning how to better identify future black swans in the wild. That ladies and gents is why 2020 is the year of the Black Swan.