Coronavirus: Four Rules for the Decision-Maker to Work with Experts in the Face of an Unprecedented Event

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The situation has become familiar with the coronavirus, and in particular with the controversy over the use of chloroquine: everyone has an opinion and groups are being formed in favor or against it. Yet regularly, people are being called to order by others who demand that only experts should be allowed to talk on issues relating to the management of the epidemy. The message seems to have been heard: for the past three weeks, doctors have been massively present on television sets. The country has become a large proxy medical consultation room. But the question remains: faced with a complex and unprecedented situation such as the coronavirus, who has the right to speak out? To what extent can experts be trusted? More importantly, how can the decision-maker work with them?

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The Coronavirus: How Crises Disrupt our Mental Models and What That Means

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The coronavirus constitutes a major event that completely disrupts world life, rendering all forecasts and plans based on them obsolete within a few weeks. The very nature of a surprise is to bring to light an element of our mental model (deep beliefs that guide our actions) and invalidate it. Our model told us that the world was going in direction A, but it turns out to be going in direction B and we are surprised. This surprise can have more or less serious consequences. Most of the time the reaction will be to dismiss it. When there is a difference between reality and our beliefs, we try at all costs to maintain the latter by inventing all sorts of reasons to minimize the meaning of surprise; it is a matter of integrity because our mental models are constitutive of our deep identity: how we see the world is also how we see ourselves, and how we are in the world. With the coronavirus, learning to manage our mental models has become critical.

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Responding to the Coronavirus Crisis: Three Courses of Action for a CEO

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In these times of coronavirus epidemic, I have the opportunity to talk to people from very different backgrounds (emergency doctors, researchers, self-employed people, entrepreneurs, retirees, business leaders, etc.) to understand how they “live” the current crisis both personally and professionally. From these discussions, I can draw three courses of action that a CEO can usefully adopt in the face of the extreme and unprecedented situation we are experiencing. Continue reading

The Four Things that the Coronavirus Reminds Us About Decision Making in Uncertainty

The unexpected emergence of the coronavirus and its uncertain consequences remind us of four things that we should have known, or that we knew but did not apply about the environment in which we live: the unpredictability of the future, the difference between risk and uncertainty, the non-linearity of the evolution of the world, and the social construction of surprises.

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What the Coronavirus Tells us About the Management of Uncertainty

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Disruptive Innovation: What We Owe to Clayton Christensen

layton Christensen, who initiated seminal work on the notion of disruption, died from cancer at the age of 67. As a prominent theorist in management, along with giants such as Peter Drucker or Michael Porter, his work is more relevant than ever as big corporations continue to find it hard to address multiple disruptions in their environment. The following is a synthesis of his work as an attempt to demonstrate how it is still very much useful.
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The Three Principles that Entrepreneurs Use to Control their Risk

How do entrepreneurs manage risk? A persistent and widely shared belief is that entrepreneurs are risk seekers; that they like taking risk. Ask anyone in the street or in a classroom, and they will tell you, “An entrepreneur is someone who is courageous, who likes to take risks.” But nothing could be further from the truth. Entrepreneurs don’t like risk; no study has ever shown that. What studies show is that while entrepreneurs are willing to take risks, because they recognize that it is necessary, they try to control them. To do that, they use three principles that are at the core of the entrepreneurial theory called effectuation, proposed twenty years ago by Darden professor Saras Sarasvathy.

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The Conflict of Mental Models: The Key to Organizational Transformation

One of the most important reasons why organizational transformations fail is the existence of a conflict between what the organization wants to do and who it really is. This conflict can be understood by means of the notion of mental model, which corresponds to the way the organization sees its environment and itself. With this perspective, transformation is about changing the organization’s individual and collective mental models. While this is difficult in itself, it is even more so when the current model, which must evolve, is perceived as valid, because this leads to a conflict between the existing and the desired model. Surfacing this conflict and explicitly addressing it is the key to successful organizational transformation.

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How Mental Models Prevent Organizational Change: The Tragedy of the Greenland Settlers

What prevents the transformation of organizations? More generally, what prevents us from changing in the face of a changing environment? There are many causes, but among them is the way we perceive the world and how we perceive ourselves, i.e. our mental model. The importance of mental models is particularly exemplified in an important historical case, the disappearance of the Norwegian colony of Greenland.

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Collective Myths and the Challenge of Organizational Transformation

Why is an organization so difficult to transform? The issue continues to challenge the senior management of many large organizations. In large part, the difficulty comes from the fact that what makes an organization unique, that it is a social artifact (a collectively shared artificial object), is not recognized. Viewing an organization from this angle, rather than as a machine or a node of contracts, opens up an interesting avenue and provides the missing key to transformation.

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