• Rick Garrelfs

Thinking clearly in times of crisis


With Covid-19, we all have been inundated by official and unofficial views, graphic models and videos, historical comparisons, articles downplaying the severity, other articles stressing the severity, and so on. If you are insatiable, you can read 33,000 full text papers on the pandemic here.


However, three interesting contributions were made last week with advice on how to keep thinking clearly when your environment is unclear.


First, a nice overview is given in the McKinsey article “Decision making in uncertain times”. The authors Andrea Alexander, Aaron De Smet, and Leigh Weiss set out five principles for decision making under great uncertainty and give clear examples on how to make them work: Take a breath, involve more stakeholders and encourage different views and debate (which we would call Teaming), make the critical small choices, set up a nerve centre (which we would call co-creation), and empower leaders with judgment and character.


The second goes to the last point in the McKinsey article, on how to exercise judgment. This is elaborated by Sir Andrew Likierman. The webinar "Making difficult judgements in corona virus times" provides a framework for forming “good judgement”. Judgment is needed when solid information simply isn’t available. Think hard about: how you filter information, who you trust for information, what you really know, and whether you can actually trust yourself (bias)? It details several pitfalls to look out for when making these assessments.


An interesting exercise when applying the judgment framework above, is in the words of Sir Andrew “to move yourself along the time axis”. This is basically what scenario planning is all about. In the third contribution, Paul de Ruijter uses two main axes to draw up his scenarios: long term vs short term measures needed, and return to old ways vs changed ways of working. Since we don’t know what will be likely, the scenario exercise makes you think through your options and possible courses of action in each scenario. This gives you a good idea about what you could be working on now – the critical small choices - even when the time horizon in which we can foresee what is coming is now exceptionally short.


For Business Being Human, doing the scenario exercise proved revealing. In only one scenario our proposition can remain unaltered, the others will require redesign to smaller or larger extent (which we now have underway). We hope you will find the articles helpful in thinking clearly about your own propositions in these uncertain times.

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