30 March 2020

Nature has finally got our attention!?

So, is humanity paying attention yet? To the little things? To the big things?

The Great Barrier Reef bleaching didn’t get our attention. The bushfires were dramatic, but they’re old news. There was unprecedented flooding in the UK in the past few weeks, which we haven’t really heard about.

Then there is this tiny thing that rides around on the back of other biological organisms – lazy bastards can’t even get around by themselves. Well, that really has got our attention and it’s only new, and it’s hardly killed many…yet.

I’m fascinated that in the 21st century, humanity has been pulled into line by a virus, one that doesn’t even have a great stage name or a dramatic title – just letters and some numbers. Yet here we are, collectively focussed on survival, locked away to stop spreading this thing, and everyone is talking about it – the world over. It’s a first in the history of humanity, that we are all focussed on one thing at the same time. Even if every country is handling it differently.

2020 is going down in history as…whatever we create from here. The virus is a catalyst for us to change. We can choose now what that change will be. What will we choose I wonder?

What do I think we have learnt so far?

  • We have an excellent leadership team in Aotearoa right now. From the Director General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield; Microbiologist, Dr Siouxsie Wiles; Director of Civil Defence, Sarah Stuart-Black; Governor of the Reserve Bank, Adrian Orr; Finance Minister, Grant Robertson, and of course our now battle-hardened Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern. What’s so impressive is that you get a sense of coordination and communication from this team, and that is gold right now. As a result, I feel very proud to be a New Zealander.
  • Coronavirus is a natural virus that has mutated from animals, according to the World Health Organisation. The spread has been exacerbated by globalisation, and the reluctance of countries to lockdown quickly and effectively. The love of continued economic growth is directly impacting many leaders’ decision-making.
  • International leaders are now determining how historians will depict them in the future. Some of these leaders will be described as muppets.
  • The differences in national cultures is proving to be a huge influence in how countries handle this crisis. Each nation has the same virus, but different circumstances and responses. From Taiwan to Sweden, the different tactics are fascinating, and will be able to be measured for posterity.
  • Those countries who endured the SARS virus in 2002-2004, where there were 8,000 cases identified and 774 deaths, have got on top of Covid-19 quickly and effectively.
  • The outcomes of different styles in leadership will be magnified, and imposters will be exposed. Already we are seeing this across the globe.
  • Treating hospitals like a cost doesn’t work. We have not allocated enough taxpayer funds to the health sector. In complex environments like hospitals, there is a trade-off between efficiency and robustness. Being robust is the better, safer option. Having a hospital system that is highly efficient, means we are not equipped for something out of the ordinary.
  • Old restrictive barriers are being broken down right now, due to the need for action. Fragile egos are making way for new collaborations and practical outcomes being implemented that were previously stuck. I have already seen two magnificent outcomes from this event in Aotearoa, that I cannot share yet, but both are big steps forward.
  • Thanks to the 2008 financial collapse, our commercial banks are so much more resilient and able to help with the reset of the economy going forward. Author Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his book Antifragile, described how you can rebuild something stronger after a shock. This is exactly what happened to banking after the 2008 GFC.
  • Adrian Orr, Governor of the Reserve Bank, has done a sterling job over the past 12 months forcing our New Zealand banks to grow their own capital bases by restricting lending. It felt harsh at the time, but thankfully he did.
  • Food production will become the darling of our economy in the short term, hopefully not at the expense of the environment.
  • Going to the office every day is not essential.

 
My opinions on this are:

  • A feminine style of leadership in this crisis will outperform a more masculine one. An example of this for me, was the early response of Karen and Bettina in our office, which was in stark contrast to my own. They were the driving force of early measures to protect our facilitators and members with kits of protective items at meetings. I listened and went along with it willingly but did not instigate it. Thanks to both of you!
  • And consider the fact that many of our frontline care professionals are women. Often low paid and not given much consideration.
  • It’s going to be super-interesting to analyse how companies and nations come out of this, and I predict a dramatic rise of feminine leadership in both cases. The need for women in more leadership teams will mean safer and more dynamic corporations. We may even see love being a driving force rather than just money.
  • I am not a religious person. However, this crisis is not a random event. This has happened to wake us from our stupor, to ram home that we cannot continue on our previous trajectory of fucking up nature. This is our chance to reflect how precarious our existence on the planet we call home is. What we are facing now is only a drop in the bucket of what nature could do to us, if we don’t stop being such spoilt twats.
  • To survive this situation we are in, history would tell us that being overly optimistic is a mistake. The Stockdale Paradox (as it’s called) was used to describe American prisoners in the Vietnam war, who perished due to them believing they would be rescued by Easter, then Thanksgiving, then Xmas and so on. They became totally despondent when those dates came and went. No one knows what the future holds for us now, but it’s going to get mighty tough at times for everyone. Life is not going back to how it was. Donald Trump for example is optimistic that his country will be back at work soon. There are vaccines being developed. Malaria drugs will help. He would not have survived in a Vietnam prison – unfortunately.
  • While on the topic of Trump: I believe we will find that leaders whose personal commercial interests are put at risk by a shut down, will be compromised in making timely political decisions for the good of the people. In my view, they should be prosecuted if this compromise is found to be accurate and people’s lives are lost as a result.
  • While this is an international disaster, I am very grateful my kids are not in military training now, to go off and fight for Queen and Country.

 
Going forward I believe:

  • Those individuals and companies who focus on what they can influence, rather than their concerns, will be more effective in their pursuits. In essence – don’t worry about shit you can’t control.
  • National infrastructure is too important to be in the hands of Governments who come and go, focussed on 3-yearly elections. We need a different long-term mechanism to plan and execute building capital assets.
  • This is a time to plan what our future economy might look like. I’m sorry for those in the tourism trade, however, it is not an industry that will make us truly wealthy as a nation long term. If it was a wealth creator, Fiji and Greece would be rich.
  • The farming industry has a chance to lead a resurgent economy based on innovation, and regenerative practices, producing healthy food and produce that sophisticated markets want. This could mean getting rid of old-fashioned stock sales where animals are penned up for a day to be bought and sold. After this they will look like one of the wet markets of Asia to many customers. The Green Party could become the Farmers Party – imagine that!
  • Investing in smart companies should become a national pastime, where we celebrate the crazy things innovators come up with and nurture them to fruition.
  • Collective Intelligence will be at the heart of rebuilding our new future.

 
And most importantly, being kind is the new cool! Long may it last.

Ian Harvey (Harv)

Founder

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