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Crisis at a crossroads: Being 'action-oriented' toward fundamental human needs

Crisis at a Crossroads
I get frustrated by inaction.
 
Also known as “admiring the problem,” as Jimmy Hale my former boss and travel companion at ATG/Oracle and AAXIS would say.
 
It’s the idea where a lot of people point to a problem and say admiringly, “look at that problem over there. Somebody (not me) has a lot of work to do to fix that.”
 
Only to then proceed about their day having taken no action.
 
I also don’t like to be a doom and gloom kind of person. But I know that if we don’t start doing some very fundamental activities to address the behavioral part of the pandemic and resulting economic crisis, we have no shot at recovering any time soon with any sustained impact.
 
Rocked to the core
Maslow Hierarchy
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs from Simply Psychology
If you believe in psychology and the basic needs of humans, when you compare Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs directly to our current ongoing health and economic crisis, you can see why people are having a tough time existing (or thriving) in this environment.
 
It’s bad enough for us humans to have one or two of these needs impacted at any moment.
 
But when just about every one of these basic needs has been threatened or are perceived to be threatened then you can see why the foundation of our society is currently in disarray.  

Crisis scholars have found that the behavior of our leaders, the mortality rate, the social trauma, and economic damage all do not play a large role in determining how long a crisis persists. Other scholars insist that the duration of a crisis is primarily a result of how well the accountability processes are managed. This study argues that the way the lockdown removal process is handled will have the most significant impact on how long the effects of the pandemic persist.

National Institutes of Health; April 21, 2020
While the NIH Study study cited above is from late April, we now know the lockdown removal process is contributing to rising cases across the country. With that comes the natural consequences to our underlying human psyche.
USA Today Re-opening
USA Today; July 14, 2020

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Agenda Setting Theory is real
With COVID-19 cases on the rise to varying degrees across the country, there’s no wonder that at least two sides of the economic equation are being impacted: Consumer Sentiment and Workplace Safety and Employee Confidence.
 
As a communication major in college and validated throughout my career, the idea that the media sets the agenda for what people talk about is real.
 
It goes for the feel-good stuff (for me when The Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl) as well as tough news like global pandemics and economic crises. 
 
So yes, with the biggest megaphones (cable news, online media giants, etc) comes the most significant opportunity to change the narrative while still being true to the reality of our situation. 
 
Consumer sentiment tracking closely with new reported per capita COVID-19 cases  
Morning Consult (2020); January 1, April 15, July 1
I can say with proper research and data, there is a way back from this crisis that goes much deeper than our current situation. Experience tells me that operating reactively is not the answer to long term success. 
 
And that’s exactly what we have been doing to date. 

 

Referencing the heat map above, and as states begin to explore reversing some re-opening, I believe there is a way to go forward that allows proactive planning that takes into account many factors, including necessary human behavior.
 
It’s not enough to tell people it’s safe.
 
There needs to be a combination of a prescribed set of protocols that we’ve seen already (mask-wearing, social distancing, and hand hygiene) with research-validated tools and resources designed to address basic human behaviors aligned to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. 
 
By addressing consumer sentiment, you start on a path to demand. But each of the steps along the journey requires careful, proactive planning because we are in an environment of constant change. I foresee a prolonged period of “two steps forward, one step back” that could be mitigated to some degree if planned correctly.
Workplace safety and employee confidence another big factor
Employee Safety
The other side of the equation is the health and safety of our workforce.
 
The same people that are also consumers.
 
And let’s also not forget about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. 
 
If we bolster consumer sentiment, that should ultimately increase demand. With that comes the need for a healthy workforce ready and willing to meet the demand.
 
As of the writing of this post, we are currently experiencing the need to send our nation’s youth back to school. But with the very real or perceived lack of a safety plan, we’re experiencing a workforce not ready to meet the demand. 
 
Now follow what happens next.
 
Almost a third of those surveyed in the PwC study above are looking for assistance with individual challenges that would keep them from returning to work. 
 
So, we haven’t met the very real or perceived basic needs of our teachers, kids are stuck at home without in-person class, and the parents of those same kids can’t return to the physical workplace because they need to care for their kids staying at home.
 
And taking a step further, if demand is produced, and consumers are looking to buy that good or service where that mom or dad works, but the workforce can’t return, there could be a supply problem that would impact the ability to handle the demand.
 
How does that help with a sustained economic recovery?
 
Wishful thinking is not the answer
We must lean-in to this.
 
We must take action.
 
‘Admiring the problem’ or ‘hoping for the best’ is not going to get this done.
 
The road ahead is most certainly a rough one. But there must be thoughtful, prudent, well-planned action that creates scenarios that even with planning would need to be adapted to current conditions.
 
And only until we address the basic needs of humans will we be able to start.
 
Todd Feldman
Founder & President
The Rocket Factory
 

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