Crisis Leadership vs Crisis Management

In a series of bizarre experiments conducted by German physiologists in the 1870s, frogs were boiled alive. Heinzman and Fratscher gradually heated frogs from 21C to 37.5C over a period of 90 minutes (0.2C per minute). After 2.5 hours, the frogs were found dead in the water, boiled alive.

While debate has sought to disprove these shady C19th experiments, “boiling the frog” is more relevant to our situation today than scientific facts. In the same way ostriches don’t really hide their heads in the sand.

If change hit us like an almighty Tsunami wave, we’d react accordingly, but it never does.

Even if you watch video footage of real tsunamis (and living Japan, I saw a lot!), you’ll notice even real “tidal waves” are actually often a series of relentless incoming waves. There is rarely a giant wall of waves crashing on the beach like you see in the movies. The same is true of change, whether Covid or The 4th Industrial Revolution or Digital Revolution. It’s not a single defining catastrophic event but a succession of smaller disruptive events.

Change is more gradual, and when faced with this creeping reality, we prefer to be boiled alive.

Response to the Covid19 Crisis has shown that incremental solutions don’t solve exponential problems. The most effective leaders implement swift and “unprecedented” measurers that were often unpopular, but necessary. The least effective bumbled unclear communication strategies and confusing directives. Bill Gates’ speech to TED shows that we knew a pandemic was coming. We had the data on Covid19 months before most acted on it. Some Asian countries implemented restrictions in February, 6 months later in August, the UK was still debating a face mask ban.

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