“The biggest danger in times of turmoil is not turbulence; is to act with the logic of the past ”. The statement is from Peter Drucker, famous Austrian professor, writer and consultant dedicated to the theme of management and strategy. And it couldn't be more opportune in the moment of the global pandemic that we are experiencing. Falling into this trap highlighted by the author still has a deleterious relationship with another known but often overlooked threat: common sense.
Its use in decision-making, as well as the “logic of the past” (treating a present turbulence as it was done to those of previous times, disregarding differences), can be useful when a choice needs to be made quickly, with no time for research or formal theoretical basis, provided that the consequences and risks are minimal or moderate and that the decision-maker has sufficient knowledge and experience to legitimize it. When these conditions are not present, there is a great danger, according to American sociologist and professor Duncan Watts, in the work Everything is obvious as long as you know the answer: how common sense deceives us.
And the current coronavirus crisis deprives us of at least one of these conditions, since the socioeconomic consequences are known to be serious. First, the deaths, which will be an indelible trauma for so many hundreds of thousands of families around the world. Humanity has lost and will lose talent in countless areas and unfortunately we will be tragically smaller. In the economic sphere, it is no longer discussed whether or not there will be a global recession, but rather the intensity of it, the recovery time and the measures that governments can take to at least minimize its impacts. In the national context, these factors are even worse, considering our structural, social and historical problems that, unfortunately, reduce our ability to fight the virus and reduce the damage to be caused by the economic crisis that is looming.
The “logic of the past” and common sense are some of the causes of our weaknesses in relation to Covid-19, as many previous decisions based on them have brought us to our current state. And, ironically, they are at the same time the greatest dangers when facing the pandemic. A clear example of this is found in the labeling, by common sense, of medicine A, B or C as a magic solution, which unfortunately has been increasingly common on social networks. “So-and-so took and healed,” some enthusiastically claim, dismissing the fact that others have also recovered by taking other medications or even without any treatment, in addition to the possible risks and side effects. Another mistake may be in using the strategies adopted in other epidemics, such as that of H1N1, ignoring important differences such as the speed of contamination, lethality and the concentrated and continuous pressure on the health system.
But if in this scenario these are not the best tools, what can we use? Science and data are showing more viable paths, helping to protect against wrong decisions that, once taken, can cost many lives and the future of our nation. However, science is not a fortune cookie. Its instrumental framework is pragmatic and rigorous, which are the reasons why its conclusions are reliable when the research that underlies them is properly conducted. But its application requires adequate time and conditions.
The solution to complex problems like the one we face today is not trivial - it involves ethical and operational aspects. In a classic approach to drug validation, it would be necessary, for example, to randomly divide a group of patients with equivalent situation and characteristics to administer it to one group and placebo (a substance without effects on the body) to another, to then statistically compare the results. results. But how to do this in critically ill patients who, due to their condition, are at the same time those who most need efficient treatment and those most susceptible to death due to their lack or inadequacy?
For these reasons, a greater focus on data generation and analysis is perhaps the most feasible path, given the urgency and seriousness of the situation - especially with regard to the wide monitoring of infected people, not restricted only to those in hospital treatment, but extended those with mild symptoms and the general population, since a large part of the virus transmission occurs through asymptomatic individuals. This corroborates the results of countries that have adopted mass testing and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation, as it provides an important instrument for crisis management and allocation of scarce resources such as respirators and personal protective equipment.
But rigor, standardization and reliability are required; otherwise, we may make wrong decisions because they are based on inaccurate or incomplete information. And given the limited resources, probabilistic sampling, especially among asymptomatic individuals, can be a valuable resource, as it allows a smaller number of tests to enable us to reliably generalize the results. Thus, statistics and information prove to be powerful tools for management and decision making, even more intensely in times of turbulence.
Jeanfrank TD Sartori, master in Information Management and specialist in Business Intelligence, is a consultant for Grupo Positivo.