What is a crisis?
A crisis is a time of great disagreement, confusion, suffering and difficulty. It can happen at a large scale such as the current global experience characterized by a health crisis- COVID-19 or it can happen at a very small scale such as at a personal level. Crisis situations are almost always difficult to manage because they throw us outside the comfort zone. By nature they hit multiple aspects of life at once therefore individuals or institutions are never dealing with one problem but many at the same time. Most individuals and institutions are never prepared for crisis situations and for the few that do prepare, the preparation is never enough otherwise why would they be called crisis situations if they did not throw even the most prepared off balance.
How the mind normally responds in crisis situations
Most individuals and institutions respond to crisis situations in panic mode. The uncertainty that they see coming throws them off balance and in return they throw away, their calm and everything they know which could help them manage better. Focus is put on this uncertainty and the hazards it brings which in turn grow into mountains that they can’t move. This normally leads to feelings of despair leading to surrendering to the perceived inevitable adverse impact. It also leads to deniability with noone wanting to take responsibility for anything including their roles as leaders, team members, strategists. Deniability also takes the shape of refusing to acknowledge the existence of the crisis drivers and this automatically locks any problem solving mechanisms that can be designed as part of the response. Where leadership fails the waves of panic travel far and wide to those affected by that leadership be it at political, corporate, community or family level.
The COVID-19 Health Crisis
The negative effects COVID-19 health crisis are not different, if not worse for most people. It has brought the world to a halt with disruptions in every aspect of our social, economic, political and cultural life. Jobs have been lost, businesses have closed, relationships have been strained, and loved ones have departed in a flash. The World bank estimates that 40 to 60 million people are being pushed into poverty globally and the world progress in eliminating extreme poverty will be set back by 3 years. Like any other epidemic, existing inequalities for women and girls and discrimination of other marginalized groups such as persons with disabilities and those in extreme poverty, have worsened. Across the world the pandemic is having serious consequences for democracy, equality, and human rights. However, this is not a time to neglect human rights;
it is a time when, more than ever, human rights are needed to navigate this crisis in a way that will allow us, as soon as possible, to focus again on achieving equitable sustainable development and sustaining peace.
How you should be thinking…
The best mind in a crisis situation is not an anxious mind but an adapted mind. An adapted mind engages in critical thinking that helps it to answer the following questions:
- What is working currently?
Because a crisis situation changes the order of life and business everything starts working differently. You should be quick to notice the changes and adapt. By asking yourself what is working currently you automatically cancel everything that has stopped working thereby giving yourself a new daily focus that will not resist or frustrate you. This immediately eliminates any negative psycho-social reactions such as depression and panic attacks. It opens your mind to more ideas, thoughts and plans. In turn your environment begins to communicate only possibilities.
- What and where are my best opportunities created by others or myself?
While the loudest messaging you will get, mainly from media if it is a macro crisis, will be about closing opportunities you should know that new opportunities always arise in times of crisis. Having answered the first question you will notice that you are half way to identifying current opportunities. These opportunities arise from the problems that have been created by the crisis. Someone has to solve them. For the opportunity mapping process to be relevant to your needs you have to analyse how the problems that have been created are aligned to your set of skills, interests and experience. You also need to check if you can be the solution sponsor. If you can be one it means that you will end up creating opportunities for yourself and others. However if you cannot sponsor the solution you need to check for sponsors whom you can partner to bring solutions into practice by bringing any form of expertise required. Beyond being a sponsor you need to categorise the opportunities into short term and long term opportunities. Short term opportunities will likely disappear with the crisis however long term opportunities feed into the new norm
3. How do I secure the opportunity with the resources I have?
You also need to check the resources that you have that will help you to be part of the solution. These could be monetary, material, human resources, social networks and others. Its very important to work within what you have absolute access to otherwise you will fail to take off. Doing this will give you absolute control over your next steps and you will overcome with great confidence.
Time is a critical resource too and how you decide to use it is very important. Most individuals and institutions will be bogged down in never ending analyses however only those who choose to act with well calculated lighting speed are able to make the most of the crisis opportunities. This means that your scenario mapping has to be close to your lived experiences as much as possible to allow you to put in place response measures that are relevant and impactful. In the process your actions signal to the community around them of the endless possibilities thereby bringing hope and inspiration. Both are rare currencies in such situations but they are the most important in building resilience during the crisis.
How you can apply the tips practically?
The example share below is relevant to the COVID-19 situation that the world is currently faced with. I have chosen one problem to work with as shown below:
- Problem– no access to education for learners due to school closure measures by government
- What is working– online teaching is working best especially in urban areas where there is access to electricity, internet and financial resources. There is low chance of exposure to the contingent and i do not violate government rules.
- Self analysis– I am a trained teacher, proficient in information technology including online learning platforms
- Opportunities- in the short term I can offer low cost lessons on whatsapp to learners from my school. In the long term I can invest in an online learning infrastructure that can target learners from anywhere in my country. This will widen the education sector while increasing my income streams.
- Resource mapping- I have access to a smart phone and learning materials, I have some savings enough to buy data
- Solution sponsorship– I can sponsor the short term solution because of my skills set and available resources however i will begin to look for partners for my long term plan who have expertise in IT and more financial resources.
An adapted mind is your weapon and asset. Train your mind to operate in this way and become the master of your destiny in any given situation. The difference between you and those who will not make it will be your ability to adapt in this crisis and others to follow.