Many argue that the outbreak of the coronavirus in itself is not a classic Black Swan event. After all, people like Bill Gates had talked about viruses being more deadly than nuclear warfare as early as 2015.
What is somewhat of a Black Swan event-type fallout of this outbreak is how the world is suddenly learning to live with lockdowns, physical distancing, and minimizing wants. This has not happened on such a large and universal scale for decades because of how globalized economies had become and how easy it was to travel, work, and live in any part of the world.
The Problem Type
In the last four months since the coronavirus outbreak, people’s lives have gone into a tailspin and things have most likely changed forever, especially in the way we live, work, travel, and do just about anything. This—not knowing how our personal and work-space will change—is an adaptive problem that the world will have to gear up to solve in the near future.
Leadership expert Ronald Heifetz, at the Harvard Kennedy School, defines problems based on their nature: technical and adaptive. Technical problems have clear definitions, some solutions in sight, experts to help deal with them, and don’t need a major mindset shift. Everything we are seeing now, linked to the pandemic situation, shows that this is a much larger issue. There are no clear ideas on what problems will arise from these lockdowns and hence there are no clear definitions.
Will mental health issues arise? Will people adopt minimalist lifestyles? Will education move to largely an online model? Will most organizations mandate work from home? These questions have no ready answers to tide us through. They also clearly highlight the paucity of experts and the sheer number of people needed to provide solutions to deal with the aftermath. Finally, it is also becoming clearer we will have to change our mindsets to tackle this problem. This then is an out and out adaptive problem. For any of us to tackle this problem, we will first have to be accepting of the fact that it brings with it a huge change, and then we have to get down to defining different parts of the problem to be able to move to solution mode.
Crisis and Change
Let’s understand how to embrace change first. A crisis, like this which has no clear precedent, teaches us that the only way to survive is to accept change as the only constant we know. To learn to live with change, we all need to self-reflect—both retrospective reflection and in-the-moment. Once you reflect and become self-aware, it will help you to accept, brave, and even celebrate most changes. It will also help you to approach every change as a learning opportunity. This is really the essence of Harappa’s Embracing Change course.
The course will help you to understand that setbacks, failures, or even mistakes are not something to shy away from. Rather face them, and the change they bring. Take these as learning opportunities, and recognize the mistakes and failures you may have been making. It will become easier to accept challenges and uncertainties and help you move ahead and take constructive action to bounce back at work and in life
Use this crisis period to build habits to help you and those around to define immediate problems and then find the courage to change in face of the reality that awaits us once the dust clears and normalcy is established. It will empower you to enter the new world with a growth mindset toolkit.
Seema Chowdhry is Vice President, Curriculum, at Harappa Education. This article first appeared in India Infoline News Service on May 4.
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