What Should You Pay Attention to During This Pandemic?
March 11, 2021
CEO of Disaster Avoidance Experts
Topicscognitive biases, Leadership Development, mental health, pandemic, professional development, work from home
Are you confused about what you should pay attention to during these difficult times? What you're concentrating on can make a big difference in your business, career, and health.
Many people are extremely excited by the possibility of reliable vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. This fantastic news has deservedly boosted the stock market, and lots of companies are shifting to retract planned staff and budget cuts
However, many senior executives and stock investors are very attentive to vaccine news. Vaccinations of the general public are scheduled for early Spring of 2021.
They're not facing the reality of the third wave of COVID, which is bombarding many medical facilities and leaving patients stranded, as well as the truth that the economic scenario will not get better until late Spring 2021.
If you're not focusing on the reality of the 3rd wave, then your attention is misdirected, as it is for numerous people.
Case Study: Attention in Manufacturing
Let's consider James, the COO of a mid-size production company that was impacted by the pandemic.
As COVID-19 numbers began to climb up in the United States in early March, James contemplated with the other leaders the possibility of postponing their expansion projects. He recommended redirecting resources towards increasing tech and security to get ready for a possible work from home move for the company.
The company had already been testing some equipment to automate more tasks with excellent outcomes for the past months. James asked the CEO to approve the purchase of the equipment and its immediate rollout, instead of waiting another year, as first planned. Utilizing this equipment would mean fewer people with a more general skill set would be required to generate the company's products.
Nevertheless, the CEO was skeptical and proceeded with the growth plans, which led to the company being significantly disrupted when the COVID cases and its deluge of constraints struck.
When James contacted me in late May after viewing a webinar I conducted about how organizations can adapt to the changes brought by the pandemic, his business was embroiled in internal team conflicts and many employees either declined or were not able to go to work even when the state permitted reopenings for businesses.
Even those who had desk jobs struggled with working from their homes due to the total absence of preparation for a remote setup.
COVID-19 and the Attentional Bias
When I met James as well as the company's CEO and CFO over Zoom, I told them that we should admit that COVID-19 seriously interrupted our world and will not disappear anytime soon.
The refusal to recognize the gravity of the pandemic and even the act of minimizing it originate from a mix of three elements:
- The nature of the virus itself
- The preexisting beliefs and strategies of business leaders
- The perilous judgment errors we tend to make that cognitive neuroscientists and behavioral economists refer to as cognitive biases
One of these is the attentional bias, which triggered James' associates to choose incorrectly at the start, and amidst, this pandemic.
Attentional bias describes our inclination to focus on details that we discover most emotionally appealing, and overlook information that we do not. We need to remember that in some cases details that don't seem emotionally prominent is really the most important information.
You should take notice of and accept the present truth of continuous waves of constraints as the new abnormal, instead of a temporary situation. Essentially, you should alter your internal and external business models if your goal is for your company to survive and thrive throughout these uncertain months.
Guiding Back to Efficiency
When I last talked with James in the end of June 2020, he told me the senior executives met to discuss the most urgent concerns in each department and come up with ways to deal with each issue.
Afterward, they decided to take immediate action, beginning with stopping all projects connected to the product expansion, suspending it for the next two years, in addition to the following steps:
- Acquiring and setting up the automation equipment
- Investing into required social distancing and hygiene procedures at their production facilities to comply with CDC standards
- Enhancing tech, security, and funding for home office setups for all workers who could be shifted to telecommuting
- Offering professional development for their employees, both in working from home collaboration and communication for those who worked from home, and in using the new equipment and CDC compliance for those who were asked to report to the office
Throughout these troubled times of the pandemic, it is essential to keep biases in check and be attentive to important details. Even if your business had trouble making sound choices at the start of the pandemic and fell prey to cognitive biases, you can still guide it back to the best direction.