Covid-19 – not managed with equal dexterity globally. It is a complex problem.

Key challenges, consequences and opportunities relate to three interrelated areas:

. Key Challenges:
o Complex problem:
– Multiple interacting factors, some unidentified – no simple chain of causality
– Small change to single factor – significant change in outcomes
– Problematic to identify and manage
– Prone to cognitive bias
– Probabilistic

o Uncertainty:
– Hallmark of complexity
– Bertrand Russell – ‘The demand for certainty is one which is natural to man, but is nevertheless an intellectual vice’…

o Communication:
– Communicating complexity, uncertainty and risk is testing

. Consequences:
o Complexity:
– Nature of the problem – delayed identification
– Super-specialists – conflict of assumptions, method, and language
– Multiple interpretations of evidence
– Requires constant reappraisal of evidence and iterations of strategy
– Evidence – shines a light but ‘the science’ cannot lead

o Uncertainty:
– Simplistic solutions e.g., handwashing for a respiratory virus
– Repetition of mistakes, Einstein – …’The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results’
– Spectrum of potential ‘solutions’

o Communication:
– Lack of certainty – impression of incompetence
– Loss of trust

. Opportunities
o Identify and accept complexity and uncertainty
o Education:
– Disruption to education – opportunity to review approach and content
– Critical thinking:
o Exploration of assumptions
o Unpicking perspectives, theories, evidence, and values

o Training – Government, public bodies, and media:
– Develop training package
– Framework to:
. Identify and manage complex problems
. Examine related evidence e.g. lessons learnt from SARS and MERS
. Overview imperative
– Communication – between specialists, policy makers and the public

o Application of approach to other complex issues could include.
– Public health and social care
– The future of town centres




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