Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Leadership and Mental Biases in a Pandemic

The global magazine, Foreign Policy, has compiled a list of things that kill more people than sharks - trampolines, roller coasters, vending machines and furniture/TVs:  In fact more than 26 people die every year after being crushed by furniture/TVs, and only an average of six people die each year from shark attacks.  With these numbers there should be an entire week dedicated to furniture/TV attacks on Discovery Channel.

Humans are not very good at analyzing risk.  We are all afraid of sharks, but never give our furniture a second look.  We all come with biases, prejudices, paradigms, different education levels and viewpoints that influence and filter the way we think.  This is all before we consider normalcy bias.  Here is what Wikipedia says about normalcy bias, "It is a tendency for people to believe that things will function in the future the way they normally have functioned in the past, and therefore we underestimate both the likelihood of a disaster and its possible effects."  It's reported that 70% of people display normalcy bias during disasters.  It's what makes people reach for their laptops and suitcases when they exit a plane during a serious emergency.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Paying the Piper In the Midst of a Pandemic

In the German folk tale, The Pied Piper of Hamelin, the leadership of a small village made a verbal contract with a mysterious flute-playing exterminator to rid the village of rats.  Once the rats were successfully removed, the village leaders refused to pay.  They came to regret that. From this old tale came the saying, "pay the piper" which acts as a warning.  It means you better pay the true cost, or something sinister will happen.

In the Pied Piper of Hamelin tale the village lost their youngest generation, in the current COVID-19 scenario, it is our oldest generation most at risk.  The question to ask ourselves today is have we stopped paying the piper?  Have we lost our fear of existential risks.  Have we as a society come to believe we no longer must pay the cost of risk prevention?  Have we come to value short-term profits over safety and the lives of our most vulnerable?

Our lack of fear is a new thing.  Throughout history humans have been very fearful for good reasons.   Life was mostly short, exhausting, violent and full of suffering.  For example in 17th-century England life expectancy was only 35-years old.  In the early Colony of Virginia it was only 25-years old.  Out of the 270 men on five ships in Magellan's fleet, only 19 survived the voyage.  Yet today we seem to believe that we are safe, in control and there is no longer the need to pay the piper.

In March of 2020 the markets crashed.  Why? Investors never anticipated existential risks like COVID-19, although there have been 8 pandemic's in the past 70 years.  Investors never built the risk of a global pandemic into their financial models — and when the risk of COVID-19 had to be priced into their models in February and March of 2020, our global markets collapsed.

The United States' entire defense budget for 2020 is $738 billion. Yet in comparison we now find ourselves pumping a massive $2.2 trillion into the US economy in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  We are now paying the piper, but on his terms.

I hope we learn from this.  I hope we decide to pay the piper in the future.  I hope in years to come we invest in finding and stopping pandemics early, creating vaccines and the means to produce them, have teams of experts trained to lead fights against pandemics, establish a reserve of life support systems to respond to outbreaks, and accumulate large stockpiles of protective equipment to enable our healthcare workers to provide the care we require.

Let's pay the piper.

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Kevin Benedict
Futurist/Founder
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

A Mid-Pandemic Interview with Supply Chain Risk Expert Joe Carson

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global supply chain has been in the headlines for weeks.  To further explore how the pandemic is impacting global supply chains and risk management strategies today and in the future I reached out to expert Joe Carson, CEO of Spend Strategies LLC, (former Chief Procurement Officer of both Micron Technologies and Lucent) for his insights.

What is the scope of the challenge procurement organizations are facing in high tech as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic?

The challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic is the unprecedented scope and scale of the impact zone. Past disruptions, such as factory fires, tsunami’s, earthquakes or even past pandemics, were relatively localized. A city, country or region of the world served as the epicenter. In those cases, supply chains could stand a chance of reacting by adjusting their supply chains to other suppliers or transportation lanes. In this case however, the problem is much more severe.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Speed, Accidents and Pandemics

The value of distance has been lost to speed.  Throughout history distance meant a level of security and safety.  Invading armies of marching foot soldiers could cover about 20 miles per day on Roman roads.  A thousand miles distance between a town and an invading army equated to at least 50 days of security and time for the townspeople to either prepare a defense or flee. Historically distance was not only a protection against invading armies, but pandemics, epidemics and plagues as well.  Some diseases started on one continent and took years to reach another.  Speed, however, has removed this protection.  It has made us all continuously contagious neighbors.

Today the world is divided into GPS coordinates surveyed by invisible drones and satellites.  These and other technologies support the ability to deliver people, cargo, munition and disease anywhere in the world within minutes or even seconds.  The value of distance has nearly disappeared.

Professor Paul Virilio, a sage futurist, wrote every innovation comes with  a guaranteed accident.  For example, you cannot create a Tesla without a Tesla crashing.  Innovations and accidents are inseparable.  You cannot have one without the other. The technologies that support globalization, global supply chains and air travel guarantee pandemics.  You cannot have one without the other.  The world has faced over 70 epidemics since 1957 and 8 pandemics.  That averages one or more every year.

The data tells us that epidemics and pandemics are now guaranteed and common.  We cannot move blindly forward in a global network of people, economies, supply chains and connected technologies without paying the piper.  We must set-up the processes, plans, and government and economic levers necessary to live and thrive under the continuous exposure of pandemics.  It is no longer acceptable to be surprised and unprepared.

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Kevin Benedict
View my profile on LinkedIn
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Join the Linkedin Group Digital Intelligence

***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.