Prepare for things getting worse, then hope for better

Prepare: Are you ready?

I’m a very positive and optimistic person, but always grounded in empirical evidence and pragmatism.

Today, a tough message, a simple recommendation for you personally and in your leadership of others.

Prepare for things getting worse, then hope for better

On 8th March 2020 I posted “Act Now“, one of a few people who were at shouting from the rooftops the need to act immediately to lockdown the UK, yet we all now know that the UK Government delaying this to 23rd March cost many thousand lives and enormous economic damage, as well as lasting mental health and other impacts.

I think we are heading for another lockdown, are you ready?

What did I see in early March? Simple. Trending data showing cases doubling every three days. Exponential math like this is inexorable and has massive impact if not addressed before the “chart turns vertical”.

Ask most people if they think we will go back into full lockdown again and they say we won’t. Unfortunately, this is not based on reason, it is based on instinct and “gut feel”.

Otherwise put, this is a heuristic, a bias, (see “You cannot eliminate your biases” for a longer post), in this case, a “status quo” bias, aka “wishful thinking”. Biases are very firmly lodged in our human behaviour, the answer is often to look dispassionately at the evidence.

Today, 18th September, the evidence should be sounding a loud alarm bell for all of us, as we are once again seeing trending data showing inexorable growth in cases, then hospital admissions, and soon (unfortunately) higher death rates.

Well, I am not certain we will go back to the same level of lockdown this time, but the evidence strongly suggests to me that we will, so (sorry parents) schools will not make it to the end of this term without having to close, plus pubs and other gathering places may be closed again before Christmas. This time the psychological impact will be worse, as there will be less hope there of it being lifted or even eased for months to come.

What do I recommend?

Prepare for worse, then hope for better. The alternative is to be under-prepared. I know which I’d rather plan for.

In that preparation, consider what I call “Proactive Resilience”. Do everything you can to be prepared and strong (physically, mentally, emotionally, financially and more) in advance of things getting worse.

Oh, and please, do your part for others. We can never eliminate risk, but we can reduce it by doing our part to reduce transmission. Again we know this rationally, yet we don’t do it, as we are once again biased, the “it won’t happen to me” thinking, a “favourable scenario” bias.

One more thought around preparing for worse and hoping for better. This one may scare you a little.

Imagine Donald Trump losing by a small margin in the US election, then refusing to admit defeat. The Military doesn’t back him but also won’t remove him from the White House. At the same time he activates his base and raises militias who say they are “federal” though with no uniforms or insignia. In short, Trump tears up the US Constitution and creates a dictatorship.

Crazy? Perhaps, but conceivable? A year ago I would have said not, but now? Absolutely. I can tell you that lots of major multinational corporations (who employ scenario planners) are already working that possibility into their thinking.

Prepare for things getting worse, then hope for better


Also published on Medium.