24. How to prepare for major disruption and avoid making mistakes during the coronavirus pandemic - Lessons from a disaster expert (COVID Series)

Never have we ever in our lives, in this generation, at this point in time, wanted to know more what to do, how to do it, and when will the threat of COVID-19 be over. All over the world, political leaders, scientists, health practitioners, businesses, families, we are all struggling to find out feet and get a sense of direction amidst the threat of COVID-19. It is impacting our health and our economy like no other crisis we’ve ever seen before.

In this episode I interview Dr. Gleb Tsipursky, a disaster avoidance expert, consultant, coach, speaker and former academic with over 15 years of experience as a cognitive neuroscientist and behavioural economist. Gleb has written for major outlets such as Inc. Magazine, Time, Scientific American, Fast Company, and Psychology Today, and has been interviewed extensively on TV and podcasts. As CEO of Disaster Avoidance Experts, he has consulted and coached hundreds of clients worldwide, including large corporations such as IBM, Honda, and Wells Fargo. His academic career includes seven years as a professor at Ohio State University and dozens of peer-reviewed pieces published in leading academic journals. He authored the bestselling author of several book, such as “The Truth-Seeker’s Handbook”, “Never Go With Your Gut: How Pioneering Leaders Make the Best Decisions and Avoid Business Disasters.”

When we booked our catch-up months ago, the plan was to prepare you for redundancy: how job hunters can make good decisions at times when emotions are high, during crisis or unexpected events. Little did we know we would be talking about avoiding disasters during the biggest disaster of our time. We quickly pivoted our chat, of course, and focused squarely on what is happening in the world now: the uncertainty and complexity of the COVID-19 pandemic, and its flow on effects in the economy, our work or our livelihoods.

Gleb helps us understand how to respond to threats effectively, how to make good decisions and how to prepare for things that can go wrong that we are not anticipating. Many times during our conversation I had my coaching framework validated over and over again by Gleb’s research and recommendations: that we need think and plan long term, that we focus and work strategically towards our goals, that we work pragmatically to develop a long term, sustainable career. I felt re-assured that I’m tracking well in the support I’m providing you folks, my students and clients.

And together we will get through this and be better positioned for the new world of work that will crystalize on the other side of this crisis. We’ve all heard this before: crisis is both threat and opportunity. So, we need to be ready to bypass the threats we face right now and those yet to come, and use this hibernation time to prepare ourselves and update our toolkit to make the most out of the opportunities ahead.

In times of crisis, more often than not, we are overwhelmed with our emotions and base our decisions out of what we “feel” is right. We are usually not prepared to deal with it and especially not able to make good decisions that will benefit us for the long term. So how can we make good decisions especially in times of crisis or in times where something unexpected happens, like COVID-19?

Here are some key takeaways from this interview:

  • Beware of these 3 cognitive biases: they are the specific errors we make because of how our brain is wired. They are the systematic patterns of making bad decisions:
    1. Normalcy bias – where we feel like the future will be normal, that it will be like the past.
    2. Confirmation bias – where we tend to look for information that confirms our beliefs and ignore information that doesn’t.
    3. Optimism bias – where we tend to be way more optimistic about the future.
  • Ask yourself 5 questions to minimize risks when making important decisions:
    1. What important information didn’t I yet fully consider? What evidence then should I take into account?
    2. What dangerous judgement errors haven’t I addressed? What cognitive biases haven’t I considered?
    3. What would a trusted adviser tell you? What would they tell you about this situation?
    4. How have you addressed all the ways that this decision could fail?
    5. What would cause you to revise your decision? What would cause you to change your mind about whatever decision you’re taking place?

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