Five ways NOT to think about the crisis and its aftermath.

This is a unique moment to make change but only if we think about it the right way

CEO Teach First

1. “This will change everything.”

Unlikely. Some things will be different and some things will remain the same. Some things maybe even ‘more’ of the same. We should expect a strong counter-reaction in some areas of life. We cannot take for granted that we will all work from home when this is done, for example; people are already missing the social side of office life. 

What have you discovered you miss during lockdown? What areas of life and work did you take for granted that now seem critical?

2. “This proves what I always believed.”

If all you conclude from the crisis is that you were right all along, you may not be approaching this with an open mind. It is natural to see in events confirmation of our cherished theories and beliefs, but this situation is unprecedented. If it hasn’t surprised you in some way, you haven’t been paying attention. 

It’s curious that the same situation can lead some people to conclude that online learning is worthless, while others seem vindicated that physical schools are now a thing of the past. 

How has the crisis changed your mind? What has surprised you?

3. “It’s all or nothing.”

No intervention or response will solve every problem or work for everyone. There are no panaceas or silver bullets. Just because it won’t eliminate the entire achievement gap or reach every family, doesn’t mean it is not worth doing. And presumably its proponents are not claiming that every other tactic should be abandoned. To say that ‘this won’t solve everything’ is a lazy objection to any suggestion. Of course, we should look to the evidence and direct our efforts to areas of greatest impact, but ultimately there will be a patchwork of different solutions. 

Are you letting the best be the enemy of the good? Do you see the situation solely in terms of rivalry for attention and resources?

4. “It works for me.”

As has been said before, the crisis is not a great leveller. Your experience may not reflect the experience of others. Some people are actually saving money; others have lost their livelihoods. Some are enjoying their gardens; others are criticised for escaping from the bedsit for a walk in the park. Some people are worried about online delivery slots; others are waiting for food parcels. Some people are relaxed about their health risks, others a deeply frightened. 

In what ways is your experience unusual? Have you sought different perspectives?

5. “We already know what to do.”

What worked for a few weeks might not work forever. After the initial fumbling around with video conferencing, forgetting to unmute ourselves, we all got used to it to the extent that we were proudly playing around with customised backgrounds on Zoom last week. This week, we’re suddenly exhausted, with sore eyes and sore backs and sick of the screen. 

We haven’t tried anything new long enough to truly evaluate its impact and sustainability. Some of what we do will work, and we’ll keep. Some of what we do won’t work, and we’ll ditch it gladly. 

Where is the jury still out on impact? Where do you see early evidence of doubts and exhaustion?

These are natural reactions to new situations, and things we are all working through. It’s not entirely ‘business as usual’ however. 

The crisis has created a moment of liberation in our thinking, where necessity frees us from the bonds of routine, scrutiny, measurement, caution and perfection to consider things we would never have dared before.

The crisis will not automatically transform our world. But if you want a small part of it to be different, you have a unique moment in which to work to make it so.

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