It seems like the latest epidemic fear is that of the Zika Virus. It reminds me a little of the panic over Swine flu a few years ago. I was in Dallas, TX and watched in awe as most public schools closed leaving thousands of kids on an unscheduled two-week vacation. Every newscast delivered more and more bad news about the flu.
Reactions among the public ranged from total panic to complete apathy. Kind of curious if you ask me.
You know I’ve seen this same scenario play out time after time during any kind of crisis, global, national, organizational, or personal. Typically, there are three kinds of reactions:
Panic – usually caused by not having enough information. This leads to irrational actions that tend to stampede the people closest to the panic-ee. With the Swine Flu, you’re seeing massive school closings, cancelled trips to Mexico, and people living in bubbles.
Apathy – usually caused by a general aversion to people who panic. This reaction can be troublesome if there indeed is impending danger. In the Flu crisis, you see people ignoring all news and not taking any personal precautions.
Informed Strategic Action – usually taken when people have correct, timely information and the willingness to do what’s necessary to get through the crisis. This is your best course of action. With the Swine Flu, you see proper handwashing and hygiene and common sense precautions.
In each case, information (or lack thereof) is the key to getting through the crisis. Since by the time you read this we’ll probably have solved the Swine Flu problem, let’s consider organizational or personal crises.
If you’re facing organizational challenges (which is probably the case considering the tough economy) then you’ll want to get as much information as possible. Read cases studies, hire good consultants, and think carefully and strategically before making decisions. Do what you can to avoid panic or apathy (no strategy vs. “the flavor of the month strategy”) by communicating early and often.
For personal challenges, do the same thing. Read good books, seek out good counsel, visit your physician, and/or go to church.
We’re all witnessing daily doses of crisis these days. Watch for the different reactions and do what you can on a personal and organizational level to make wise choices. And be sure to wash your hands!