This pandemic has become a crisis in network leadership.
Last June, I wrote — our wake-up call
On 6 June 1944 the First Canadian Army landed at Normandy. It had never been tested in battle as a formation. The complications of drills in England had been replaced by the complexity of war and the chaos of battle. By the end of August, two brigade commanders and five commanding officers had been removed as they were deemed unsuitable.
“[In Normandy] There still remained, however, that proportion of officers who were not fully competent for their appointments, and whose inadequacy appeared in action and sometimes had serious consequences.” —Breakout at Falaise
How many organizational leaders today are in the same situation as those inadequate officers in the Canadian Army — unfit for the post-invasion reality?
Only last week I wrote — sometimes perfection is the enemy of good
Understanding what domain of complexity we are dealing with is now an essential requirement for decision-makers. At its outbreak the pandemic was chaotic and required immediate action. Developing vaccines went from complex to complicated. Dealing with people and how groups react to the pandemic oscillates between ordered and unordered domains but has mostly been complex. Clear and simple communications can help to avoid confusion.
Today, many of those in leadership positions remain confused, not understanding if they are dealing with complicated, complex, or chaotic problems. They think in clear — but wrong — images, not understanding their state of confusion.
He is quick, thinking in clear images;
I am slow, thinking in broken images.
He becomes dull, trusting to his clear images;
I become sharp, mistrusting my broken images,
Trusting his images, he assumes their relevance;
Mistrusting my images, I question their relevance.
Assuming their relevance, he assumes the fact,
Questioning their relevance, I question the fact.
When the fact fails him, he questions his senses;
When the fact fails me, I approve my senses.
He continues quick and dull in his clear images;
I continue slow and sharp in my broken images.
He in a new confusion of his understanding;
I in a new understanding of my confusion.
—In Broken Images, by Robert Graves
The digital networks that now connect all of us globally give us a new sense-making platform that many of us and most of our leaders ignore or use inappropriately. I have said many times here that leadership today is helping make the network stronger, smarter, and more resilient. I have seen few cases where government knowledge sharing is making any of us smarter.
Today, in my province of New Brunswick, Canada, we are moving to the Orange level. The descriptions of what is allowed are confusing and often at cross-purposes, as are similar public health directives in many other jurisdictions. For example, there are single household ‘bubbles’, but strangers may gather and share the same air in a bar or restaurant. Schools, with their dated ventilation systems, remain open.
It is too bad that we cannot fire all these poor leaders and replace them with people who will help make their networks smarter. Some people are stepping up and using social media for knowledge sharing and sense-making. I use Twitter as a way to create human knowledge filters. I wish our political leaders did this as well. My pandemic knowledge filters include:
- Dr. David Fisman, Canada
- Dr. Michael Mina, USA
- Amy Greer PhD, Canada
- Dr. Trish Greenhalgh, UK
- Dr. Adam Kucharski, UK
- Zeynep Tufekci PhD, USA
- Yaneer Bar-Yam PhD, USA
- Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, USA
- Dr. Isaac Bogoch, Canada
- Dr. Abdu Sharkawy, Canada
- Sabina Vohra-Miller MSc, Canada