What are the possible futures of covid19 ?

Author: Manu Steens

In this article I am writing my own opinion, not that of any organization.

Some time ago I read the book “Handboek Scenarioplanning-Toekomstscenario’s als strategisch instrument voor het managen van onzekerheid” (Handbook Scenario Planning-Future Scenarios as a strategic instrument for managing uncertainty). That book has worked on me like a red rag on a bull. It inspired me to apply the first steps of the procedure discussed in the book. I think that a productive result can be presented very quickly when going through those first steps: a crisis anticipation team can be used in any crisis center. How do I see that? As the procedure prescribes, I start from 2 axes with, in my opinion, a lot of impact and a lot of uncertainty:

  1. Disease flare-up vs further disease decline
  2. The hospital system breakdown vs the hospital system stays upright

This gives rise to four scenario’ s as follows :

  1. Further decline of the disease and the hospital system stays upright : “Road to freedom”
  2. Flare-up of the disease and the hospital system stays upright: “We survive”
  3. Further reduction of the disease and the hospital system collapses: “Delayed stress and PTSD”
  4. Flare of the disease and the hospital system collapses: “Doomsday” scenario.

Figure:

Only one scenario has been extensively proclaimed and explained in the media : the “Road to freedom”.

This can be brave, but one lesson identified that can be predicted from this is that a CAT (Crisis Anticipation Team) should work on developing the other 3 scenarios.

At the moment it is known that hospitals are groaning under the load of covid19 . Other illnesses are delayed for treatment. This entails separate future aspects that are already known and recognized in previous waves, and of which we already know that we will be confronted with them:

-> Postponement of non-urgent treatment results in an overrun of the hospital system with severe non-covid19 cases after the covid19 crisis, regardless of which scenario of the 4 we face.     

-> After the “Road to freedom” scenario, the scenario “Delayed stress & PTSD” can still occur with a high probability. This with a lower uncertainty of occurrence over time. So it would be logical that society, on a global level, should take measures to this end.     

-> This situation can also occur after the “We survive” scenario.     

-> I don’t even want to talk about the “Doomsday scenario”, because then there is no workable hospital system left. Although a “Doomsday scenario” may also occur in varying degrees, as a series of slow-falling dominoes in terms of falling short for hands on the beds .     

Conclusion: a crisis anticipation team can, in my opinion, devote itself with the greatest efficiency and effectiveness to preparing for a failure of the hospital system, when the hands on the beds start to fall short, for example due to burnout and other work-related illnesses.

In order to find solutions, we have to look thoroughly on the labor market for who can do what. A relaxation in job provision to migrants could possibly help? Those of them with medical experience may be able to contribute to the solutions. Or people who are still studying can, as under part of an internship, deal with the more simple tasks of some professionals who then receive the task of “hands on the bed in ICU.”

I hope I’m wrong. Either way, it will never be easy.

Ultimately, if citizens really want to opt for the “Road to freedom” scenario, they will have to exercise a lot of discipline themselves. Because the virus does not adhere to any rules.

Covid19 and Cognitive Dissonance.

Author: Manu Steens

In this article I am writing my personal opinion, not that of any organization

Currently I am to delve into how people can spot opportunities. This has in common with having mission that one must have fantasy, creativity and imagination. This is needed in order to arrive at an alternative for merely dealing with threats within risk management. The advantage of opportunity management is that one already has a more developed leg within risk management on which one can rely, namely that same threat management. But one needs fantasy. And that is where things sometimes falter to be creative. In what way?

An important, well-known psychological obstacle is cognitive dissonance.

So with that I start with a difficult term from psychology, which can destroy both opportunities and mission by preventing them.

“What is cognitive dissonance and give a good example” you will ask.

Cognitive dissonance was introduced by the psychologist Leon Festinger in 1957. The term is used to describe the discomfort we feel when our beliefs are questioned by conflicting information. Because most people are driven by the desire to stay psychologically consistent. In order to achieve this, one will ignore, forget, not want to hear or know or even reason away any contradiction to one’s own truths . So one does not want to question one’s own “values”. These “values” are sometimes also called “frames” and are personal.

You can also find a word of explanation here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance .

A strong example that made headlines is Alan Greenspan’s unshakable belief in market self-regulation, which saw the biggest housing crisis to trigger the worst global crisis since the Great Depression. The situation clamored for government oversight of credit institutions so that the banks would not lend money to unsuitable borrowers. Greenspan declined this, trusting that the market would filter out bad credit risks. It became a real estate bubble. Because of the cognitive dissonance of a man in a powerful position. He ignored all warnings. It wasn’t until October 23 that he acknowledged that he had made a mistake in relying on self-regulation of the markets. Those interested will find more here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subprime_mortgage_crisis

What about Covid19 then ? An article about a report by the Secretary-General of the United Nations was published on September 20, 2019. The title block lettered : “The World Knows an Apocalyptic Pandemic Is Coming But nobody is interested in doing anything about it.” ( https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/09/20/the-world-knows-an-apocalyptic-pandemic-is-coming/ )

So there was this institution, the United Nations, that has to provide the world some protection, and it tried warn the world that a pandemic was at the door. Yet, after the facts, politicians around the world shouted they couldn’t know. There may have been some form of massive cognitive dissonance here, with all its consequences. Apparently a man can turn the world into crisis, but an organization of people who can see beyond their own truths are incapable of saving the world.

In addition, the question can always be asked what we could have done if massive credence had been attached to the report of the United Nations. Because actually, they did not know where it (the pandemic) would come from. They did not know that.

In the meantime, we hope that we can learn from Covid19, and we certainly have: there have been a number of strong examples. Vaccines have never been on the market so quickly, never before has a vaccination program on such a scale been rolled out so quickly, with growing pains though. But they do it anyway.

In the meantime, the researchers are of course not sitting still with the development of other vaccines for other diseases. One of these that is now very promising is one for malaria. To this end, there is an enormous lesson learned from Covid19: if we, the people, want it, we can vaccinate the entire world. This means that it is an opportunity from the lessons learned from covid19 to apply the vaccination experience on a large scale to this terrible disease. A plea on this issue can be found here: https://theconversation-com.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/theconversation.com/amp/new-malaria-vaccine-proves-highly-effective-and-covid-shows -how-quickly-it-could-be-deployed-159585 

The question is whether an identified lesson here will also become a lesson learned for our world leaders, or whether they would react cognitively dissonant.

In the latter case, however, I have a question. People are allowed to be very committed to their jobs in high positions. However, this implies that these people have great responsibilities that their job entails. Do they then have the psychological right not to consider perspectives if they are inconsistent with their deeply held beliefs, whatever they are? Do they have the right to refuse? Not to consider? To reason away? In other words, are they entitled to cognitive dissonance? Or should they arm themselves against it? And do they have a duty to do so?

Can citizens around the world hope that the dramatic errors of judgment of Covid 19 will give rise to something beautiful, namely more research on vaccines and on logistics to bring the right vaccine to the right target groups? If not, we will again pay an expensive price for an inflexible attitude. World leaders must therefore (dare) to break through their frames.

So my advice here is: “break through the barriers of your frames, have imagination, create a mission ! Learn to recognize the opportunities that present themselves and take advantage of them. Help each other in this! Step out of the reign of the ‘yesterday till now’-activities and look out for possible futures, including those within seven generations.”

To be able to do that, a good risk culture is needed at the top of the world. This means that every employee within every organization (hence from bottom-up) must be open at his / her level to recognizing and tackling not only threats, but also using opportunities. You do not do that by declaring a story of risk management ex cathedra to the world. Maybe one can do that by realizing a cultural change in the world, perhaps first at the level of the high positions, whereby people not only have an eye for the negative, but rather for the positive. A mission is necessary for this. And maybe our generation will see the result, maybe only the next generation will see the result. But let’s try. After all, we don’t really have another option.

Support as one of the unpredictabilities during Covid19 to be tackled

Author: Manu Steens

In this article I am writing my own opinion, not that of any organization.

Recently I read the book “Bruggen naar het onvoorspelbare (Bridges to the unpredictable)” ( Aimé Heene , 2016), and now I don’t know whether to write a review or a blog piece. For the time being I will stick to a blog, because it inspired me together with the previous book that I read (“Handboek Scenarioplanning”, Mario van Rijn and René van der Burgt , 2019) and with the situation of the corona crisis. A review is still possible later.

My personal idea is that we have to deal with a very clear unpredictability that may be turning negative: support from the population.

Let me make a comparison:

In the 1700s AD there was a lot of hunger in England. There was therefore a lot of theft of food. The punishments became more and more cruel, and after a few years the death penalty for stealing a loaf of bread became something banal. It didn’t scare people, many hungry street children died on the scaffold.

Also at Covid 19 , stricter punishment and more original checking will not help to create intrinsic support. (Fines of 4000 € for a party organizer? So why not the death penalty :-)) Moreover, the comparison indicates that extrinsic support will no longer work in the long term. As a result, I had the idea to do stakeholder management by involving stakeholders more.

” How ?” you will ask.

To create a vision for the future in a more scientific way with the aim of exploring how we should tackle the problem with public support. Not so much by inventing new techniques, there are already enough of them. More to make the right recommendations for creating a motivated support base. In the future  that depends on that same future. That can only be addressed according to me by involving the stakeholders.

So ‘how’ is the question . Prof. Heene’s book gave me inspiration in this by reminding me of the possibility of future scenarios. By means of strategic stakeholder dialogue. Difficult term.

Futures explorations with stakeholders are needed in 2 ways: (not necessarily both with the same stakeholders)

  • A stakeholder dialogue in the breadth that explores the wider society.
  • An in-depth stakeholder dialogue that explores the most relevant unpredictabilities and extracts strategic alternatives.

The purpose of the survey is to increase knowledge of the ecosystem in which the target group operates, and thereby to identify key uncertainties and unpredictabilities. As the target part of their own ecosystem within society, they must actively be involved.

In a first phase, the group identifies the key factors that can determine society: trends, evolutions, environmental factors of all kinds.

In a second phase, the organizer of the exercise quantifies the impacts of the uncertainty of all kinds of environmental factors with scores. The key unpredictabilities (potentially greatest impact and with greatest unpredictability) are retained for the in-depth dialogue. This in-depth dialogue continues with these key unpredictabilities from the broad outlook for the future.

Possibly the stakeholder group should be reconsidered now and limited to a relevant group because of a smaller focus in terms of themes to be looked at. The experts who must do the deepening of themes should sit at the table. The target group should also be at the table in this regard. The situation of similar problems in neighboring countries can also be examined. After all, “when it rains in Paris, it drips in Brussels”, etc. Scenario planning is a useful method for this in-depth dialogue .

The two most important key unpredictabilities each form an axis for a total of four quadrants, each with a scenario.

Subsequently, the participants work out the scenarios together based on their background and knowledge. In this way 4 distinct visions of the future arise from the experience and knowledge of the participants.

Concrete recommendations can follow from this.

  • The no- brainers that apply to all scenarios.
  • The thinkers that are scenario dependent.

These recommendations may or may not be implemented as measures.

A possible reason for this approach is the (rapid?) change in the situation of the support base. That support is unpredictable and therefore forces us to look ahead.

“ Wait and see ” is no longer an option. The current social changes also require a more 360 ​​° view of this situation. By involving stakeholders (the target group), the government anticipates the gaps it has (now and in the future) in order to know the substance of this matter.

As an extension of this, any organization that takes itself seriously (and has the resources to do so) could try to set up a crisis anticipation team , which looks further into the future, to explore a number of possible futures so that there are fewer unexpected turns.

One problem I already see after all is that the countries are at times in other phases. Suppose hypothetically that a country gets the problem solved, then the situation in the EU is such that the chances are realistic that the infections will just be coming back from another country.

So we have to look ahead. Anticipate. Collaborate and explore futures.

Hence my motto is “anticipate, anticipate, anticipate!”

Some additional topics for further anticipation are:

  • The economic consequences for society and the state finances of current and future generations.
  • The psychological impact of this crisis on youth and possibly future generations, and those who can give support starting now. Also by analyzing matters scientifically.
  • The restart for the hospitality & catering industry: what drastic measures are further needed for the survival of this sector. What can they do to redefine themselves?
  • The approach to vaccinations and associated (communication) strategy after the crisis, because in my opinion there is almost no other option than to make a regular new corona injection against new variants compulsory in order to keep the disease at bay. So one must think beforehand how to tackle this.
  • Crises in the periphery that can develop further unseen, because all the focus of awareness (too much for many) is now on Covid19. How about drought? Terror threat? Climate in general? Other illnesses? You hardly hear anything anymore.
  • What other themes may be relevant, they must not be forgotten in the aftercare phase. The aftercare phase itself should also not be forgotten and one should start thinking about it now. It may not take that long operationally, because a new normal situation is coming, but it is all the more important to continue to guide the aftercare of the strategic crisis, because we do not yet know that new normal.
  • All organizations must start to see and recognize and use opportunities in the crisis. At the moment there is a lot of focus on the negative, that is human. But that should not be / remain the only thing.

Hence anti-fragility will be the new resilience in the new normal.

In order not to lose relevance, I quote here a quote from the movie “Mr Brooks”:

“… Give me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change, courage to change the things that I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” (Evans)

Opportunity statements and identification and COVID-19

Author: Manu Steens

Anyone who takes himself seriously concerning risk management knows that the definition of risk according to ISO roughly amounts to a cause that gives rise to an uncertainty in the achievement of objectives. That uncertainty can have a de facto positive effect, so that the objectives are achieved and more, or have a negative effect, namely that the objectives are not achieved or worse.

A risk can then be written as a risk statement, which consists of a cause, the actual risk and the ultimate effect. This suffices as a one-to-one cause-to-effect statement to follow our reasoning, although real risk statements can give rise to many-to-one, one-to-many, or many-to-many statements.

Having a negative effect is due to threats, having a positive effect is due to opportunities.

Since a risk, despite the ISO definition, is linked by most people to threats rather than opportunities, we need to use metalanguage to focus.

Metalanguage in these are ‘templates’ in which risk statements, including opportunity statements, can be included.

This one is based on the principle of a risk statement:

  • “As a result of , may occur, which may lead to .”

And for opportunities based on SWOT, this becomes:

If we apply this to the European situation regarding Covid-19, we get, for example, statements like:

  • Through a policy culture that allows for a firm response, we can limit a new flare-up of the virus, which gives the development of a suitable virus vaccine more time and thus more chance of success.
  • If we can limit the number of human contacts at work, on public transport and in public spaces and to the extent of the realistically possible also in private life and at all kinds of events, we may be able to reduce the virus sufficiently, which gives a chance to the world of making work of economic recovery.
  • If the global expansion of human activities is intelligently restrained , allowing the pandemic risk in the future to diminish, biodiversity can stabilize, the natural balance can restore, fewer people come into contact with wild animals that are no longer dislodged from their habitat so that new pathogens are no longer transferred, transmission can decrease internationally, citizens in the future will be more forgiving and tolerant of a mistake in policy.
  • If clear communication is used, the right experts are heard, and transparency is created about the relationship between cause and effect, the most decisive policies can be discussed in open forums, providing insight into necessary and perhaps sufficient reforms to support a sustainable recovery.
  • With this premise, there may possibly be brought forward new and better institutions, with improved basic infrastructure, better regulation of key economic sectors and investment in public services that create and protect human capital and render in the long term, not in the short term, which can shape the economy and the world of the future. For example, by opting for a low-carbon basic infrastructure as a result of an open debate without group-think or tunnel vision , which enables growth for new developments, but which can also provide an answer to climate challenges.
  • By organizing flexible technology in Europe, and building strategic stocks of raw materials, it is possible to switch quickly between conventional production and the production of necessary goods in a pandemic time (e.g. personal protective equipment), thus reducing Europe’s dependence on Asia, and which also makes it possible to test such a system in collaboration with regular customers (eg hospitals, rest homes,…).

Support for provincial measures during Covid-19 – a case

Author: Manu Steens

Corona times are special times. Nobody can deny that now, except for possible total deniers. And in English they say: “Desperate times call for desperate measures ” (Said to be words of Hippocrates). When this is said, it means that actions that seem extreme may (under normal circumstances) be appropriate in times of adversity and calamity.

The real problem is in the word “may”. After all, even in times of calamity, support is needed. And how do we measure support? I previously wrote about a tool that I created to make a visual assessment of the support for actions by governments, namely at the GDPR and at Brexit .

See also: http://www.emannuel.eu/en/artikels/risicomanagement-strikt-genomen-succesfactoren-van-gedragenheid/

However, these were only two cases, so now I am trying out the (now adapted) tool on the measures for the population of the province of Antwerp . Actually it is wrong from the beginning what I am doing, because for a balanced answer I would have to conduct a survey among a relevant number of citizens . But I avoid this error by stating that this is my opinion, a personal assessment of the situation. Based on indicators that I created based on other cases. That presumption goes as follows:

Legitimacy: The province of Antwerp makes use of the legislation and works together with jurists from various government agencies. The legitimacy of a number of actions is disputed, but the complaints do not currently seem to be of the heavy caliber and appear to be rebuttable. Score: +

Cohesion of the target group by proximity of the issue to the target group: The actions are strongly felt by the population. People ask themselves whether that ban on fun shopping really should be, because shopping should still be fun … In the street scene, I hear various sighs. But most seem to think negative when someone has no intention of wearing his on the bus, but there is no one reprimanded by fellow citizens. When does the wrong thing, it remains a matter for law enforcement. Score: o

Effectiveness : With the latest results viewed day by day, it seems to be going in the right direction in Antwerp hospitals. The fact that the measures are largely the same throughout the province also seems to prevent population shifts. As well as preventing the potential infections that go with it. Score: a cautious + subject to the trend continuing.

Targeting: There are of course entirely – deniers even the existence of covid-19 deny yourself. There are also machos who do not take the advice of the elbow strike seriously, and who absolutely want to shake hands. It turns out that quite a lot of Bart De Wever’s also eat in the restaurants and taverns. However, the majority of the population takes the measures seriously. Measures such as testing and tracing will be fine-tuned further. But is there more to be explored than enforcing the rules, or are there also alternative options? Score: o.

Efficiency: The PCC Antwerp (Provincial Crisis Center) runs on very flexible people, and the population has also shown itself to be largely flexible. For example, there was an emotional urge among citizens to want to wear a mask, despite original dissuasion. Now a mask is required all over the province, and citizens have agreed. Score: +

Perseverance: The PCC Antwerp team ‘goes for it’. The members contribute topics themselves and give their opinion freely. This criterion is more difficult to assess for citizens. But with the slightest weakening of the measures, a whole lot of freedom was taken. As a result, by wanting to be too social as one of the factors, it could be that this flare-up was increased. Score: –

Leadership: People should look up to experts. And there are indeed many (types of) experts involved. Not only masters in their field, but top people from universities. Some of them have been burned in the eyes of a number of the civilians, but the same citizens seem to be looking for whom they do want to trust as experts. Furthermore, the governor himself is being looked at: we have to wait and see how she will come out of this battle. Score: ++

Internalized: There are things that have been shown to work in the past. However, is the citizen motivated to comply with the measures, or are loopholes to be found quickly in the new measures ? That is still unclear at the moment. That is why I leave this score blank: blank.

Reputation: The question here is whether the citizens has a good or bad feeling in this situation in all its aspects and whether they are on an individual level involved. That also seems unclear to me at the moment. That is why I leave this score blank.

 

In summary , the score in the tool will look like this:

Conclusion: I feel that the situation is largely supported by the population of Antwerp, although much may depend on the results in the coming weeks. The situation should be reviewed anyway after the period of 4 weeks that has been set, or after serious interventions that would occur.