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Unconventional Crises, Unconventional Responses

Reforming Leadership in the Age of Catastrophic Crises and Hypercomplexity

By Erwan Lagadec

Since the 1990s, North America and Europe have confronted a series of unconventional, catastrophic, or “hypercomplex” crises. On the one hand, the U.S. and Canada have faced 9/11, the anthrax crisis, the SARS outbreak, and Hurricane Katrina. Meanwhile, Europe has been hit by the “Mad Cow” disease, the 2003 heatwave, and 2007 forest fires in Greece. In addition, both sides were involved in the response to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Events such as these have destabilized, or even overwhelmed, traditional mechanisms for planning, response, and recovery. They have called upon leaders and analysts to develop new frameworks of interpretation, strategic guidelines, and roadmaps for action. All too often, in the absence of such insights, response efforts have tragically fallen short, and have been followed by a litany of after-event reports that typically have failed to get to the root of the problem. To tackle this issue, the Center for Transatlantic Relations in 2006 launched the project “Unconventional Crises, Unconventional Responses” under the leadership of Dr. Erwan Lagadec. The project sets up a cross-sector, international platform of leaders and experts. Based on the results of a seminar convened in Washington, D.C. in March 2007, this book develops innovative diagnoses of current deficiencies in crisis-management concepts, and lays out proposals for reform.

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