It has been a year-long bonfire of expectations and ambitions, and now we have to plan for 2021, even though we might like to avoid it. Are there takeaways from the last year to help us navigate through the fog of ignorance?
The pandemic here in the UK turned up poignant reminders about human nature too revealing to ignore, and they can help us weigh up the options in front of us. Some old truths have been nicely coloured in for us. Here are three examples.
Time delay. We are particularly bad at anticipating outcomes triggered by earlier events. We all know very well that an infection takes time to become a disease, but we still engage in risky behaviour because nothing happens at the time. Following the simple logic takes real effort and discipline, especially when it concerns a novel and invisible virus. This common weakness is partly why people crowded onto trains out of London to avoid being locked into the new Tier 4 over Christmas. It was a reaction to delayed gratification or, in this case, punishment.
There are obvious implications for managing change, especially when it is not universally requested or understood. People will adapt if they see the change as a long-term, good thing, rather than a short-term inconvenience.
Another reason for the train episode might be to do with trust. Compared to the first lockdown in the spring, recent sanctions have not been so successful. We have had time to reflect and invent competing scenarios, and now we are seeing confidence in authority erode as decisions are delayed or publicly challenged. If leadership appears to stumble, even when the path ahead is dangerous and uncharted, we naturally look for alternatives, and begin to doubt the direction of travel.