Some say it’s a Black Swan event. Others say it’s not. Either way, the coronavirus pandemic has taken policymakers and scientists completely by surprise.

As the number of cases mounts by the day, India has been under lockdown for six weeks already and will continue to be for another two weeks. Fighting the pandemic isn’t easy and a vaccine is the only solution. But that’s still a long way off, and until then, the answer lies in trust in government and effective decision-making. 

One state that has shown the way in handling the COVID-19 crisis is Kerala. Experts say it has managed to flatten the curve when the infection is still on the rise in the rest of the country. 

Kerala recorded the first COVID-19 case in India when a student flew home from the Chinese city of Wuhan in January. It was one of the country’s early hotspots, but in the past four months, it has recorded less than 500 cases and only four deaths. Maharashtra has more than 10,000 cases and Gujarat more than 4,000 cases.

How did Kerala manage to keep its numbers down? The state government took quick decisions to stop the spread of the coronavirus: It was the first to declare a lockdown and ensure its testing game was up to the mark. In other words, it used system 2 or deliberate and rational thinking to find a solution instead of System 1 thinking which is quick, more instinctive, and not so considered. 

SYSTEM 1 AND SYSTEM 2 THINKING

What is System 1 and System 2 thinking? According to Nobel Prize-winning economist and psychologist Daniel Kahneman, human decision-making is driven by two separate systems: fast and slow, or System 1 and System 2 thinking. In his groundbreaking work on decision-making, Thinking, Fast And Slow, Kahneman says these two systems are two different ways in which the human brain reacts to threats and forms thoughts. 

To find out more about these two systems of thinking, check out Harappa’s course on Reasoning Logically.

Look at Kerala’s response and it’s a classic case of considered and rational thinking. Long before the lockdown was announced, the government began tracking and closely monitoring travelers coming into the state from countries stricken with the disease. They were kept in isolation for 28 days to minimize any risk to the public. 

Other steps included stringent airport security measures, social distancing measures for the public, and guidelines for the clinical management of patients, testing, and quarantining.

Kerala also exhibited impeccable executive skills to handle the crisis. 

In many ways, the government’s decision-making skills are an illustration of the Harappa BLAST framework to find a solution to a problem. When expanded, BLAST stands for avoiding Blame, Listening, focusing on Actions, Stepping up, and Toughening up. 

You can learn more about the framework in Harappa’s Executing Solutions course, 

but here’s a quick snapshot: 

1. Beyond Blame: Move beyond holding others responsible

2. Listen: Listen to multiple voices

3. Act: Focus on a plan of action

4. Step Up: Come forward to take responsibility  

5. Toughen Up: Get ready to deal with situations

The final solution to solving the coronavirus problem lies in finding a vaccine. But until then, governments across the world have to make some considered System 2 thinking to flatten the curve. Much like Kerala did.


Check out Defining Problems course at Harappa Education. Click here to visit Harappa's Online Courses

Suha Gangopadhyay is a Specialist in the Curriculum team at Harappa Education. A postgraduate from University of Oxford, she wants to contribute to the growth of education studies in India, and dwells in a world where books are almighty.

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