COVID-19 has caused huge disruptions to the way we live our lives. However, everything will eventually get to some normality again. But it will be a new norm.
I’ll be posting these insights regularly with the fourth lesson shown below. Data is pivotal in all of the lessons presented. They are brief and personal views. Feel free to comment and contribute. I am expecting differences of opinion. Some of the topics are somewhat controversial. Some lessons learnt are however plainly obvious.
Human Behaviour Humans, across all layers of society, especially during a pandemic, are essentially selfish (refer below to my skew of Maslow’s version of Humans Hierarchy of Needs, which is Human’s Motivational Drivers Resulting from a Pandemic). They first try to meet their own deep seeded needs, followed by meeting the needs of their loved ones, family, friends etc. When the pandemic became ‘real’, panic buying may seem justifiable to help deal with an individual’s immediate survival needs, but in reality, is more irrational than intelligent. This is what behavioural scientists call Herd Behaviour. This effect is apparent when people do what others are doing instead of using cognition and their own intelligence to make independent decisions. Whilst typically seen in financial stock/security exchange meltdowns, the idea of herding has a long history in philosophy and crowd psychology and would in part explain the toilet paper run. Of course, toilet paper was just the initial irrational buy, other products followed including meat/pasta/flour (various other foods too), refrigerators, sanitisers, gym equipment etc. all devoured within days.
Given that crowd panic will occur, what are the key takeaways from the experience? How do we prevent similar runs (pardon the pun)? How and who is best placed to manage these types of behaviours? Or do we just let things ride and leave every man, woman and child to fend for themselves?
The amount of information that is captured almost instantaneously nowadays is mind-boggling. It defies belief that between:
We* failed to take ownership of the situation. The data available to all of these groups of organisations was/is incredible and yet panic and anxiety still resulted.
Let’s put this into some perspective:
An abundance of data is immediately available to limit the amount of panic experienced with COVID-19. We must not rely on governments alone to face pandemics. This is fraught with dangers. Social platforms, financial institutions, technology platforms along with governments have the responsibility to play a major role in dealing with these types of situations. For example, managing the run on toilet paper, meat and refrigerators can be influenced immediately by the parties mentioned above. They all have the information, smarts and capability to enable a more prudent outcome rather than the resulting commercial feeding frenzy that we saw during the peak of the panic. There were no winners (commercially or socially) as a result of the panic buying of toilet paper and must never be allowed to happen again.
*I use the word “we” here to cover all people because we all have a say and “we” are in this situation as a collective like it or not.
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