Covid -19: Opportunities presented by the key challenges of complexity, uncertainty and communication

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. §




%d bloggers like this: