Mapping Effective Covid-19 Engagement: Four Responses to the Challenge
This perspective relates directly to Polak’s image of the future. We plan and learn into the future (Scharmer, 2009) by not only leaning from our present position (Golden Yellow) but also leaning toward the position where we want to be in the future (Azure Blue). The leaning, in turn, is setting the stage for action (Ruby Red). We are ready to do more than lean forward. We can now move forward.
An appreciative perspective involves something more. In addition to leaning into the future, appreciation requires collaboration with other people (Bergquist, 2003). We first identify (appreciate) and engage the strengths other people bring to the table—whether this is a local table or a table that brings together people from multiple regions or even multiple countries. Building on these identified strengths, we are ready for constructive and powerful collaborative dialogue. As I have often noted in this essay, in building a compelling image of the future, we invite people with multiple perspective to the narrative-constructing and decision-making table. It is in diversity that we find effective strategies for addressing complex issues (such as we find in abundance with the COVID-19 virus) (Page, 2011).
We listen to our learned colleagues who are engaged in epidemiological modeling of the virus’s behavior and the identification of necessary elements. It is critical that we hear and appreciate their “inconvenient truths.” We must respect the way in which multi-tiered data can be processed and interpreted as a dynamic system. The contemporary system dynamics inheritors of Jay Forrester’s and Donella Meadow’s wisdom might lend a hand. We should also recognize, however, that the epidemiologists and system modelers do not have all the answers.
Using appreciation as an ongoing operative, we bring many other people to the table—including ethicists, historians, economists, and sociologists. Communication experts are needed who know how to help leaders chat fireside in a considerate and compassion manner (as did Franklyn Roosevelt during World War II) or to speak with candor and courage (as did Winston Churchill during this same war). Perhaps, an invitation should also be extended to a few psychologists and behavioral economists. They do know something about human decision-making (at its best and at its worst). As experts on the dynamics of groups and teams under conditions of intense anxiety, they might help design and facilitate the dialogue occurring at the table.