How did we navigate our decision making during Covid-19?

Covid 19 Decision Making

When faced with making decisions, certainly big ones with far reaching consequences, it’s often more time that we crave before we settle on a decision. More time often buys us the opportunity to research a topic, to gather more data, and to ask the opinion of others to reach a consensus or to seek consent. Now depending on your personality type, you’ll approach decision making in very different ways. The decisions you made for 2020 (likely) didn’t consider a global pandemic, but during the Covid-19 crisis our collective decision making, and mitigation of risk has been tested on an unprecedented scale largely at the same time. So how has the crisis impacted on our decision making?

How our concept of time was warped

We all seem to share the notion that time went slower when we were children, the same seemed to happen to many of us during lock-down. Business operating models were turned upside-down and our ways of working shifted from the office to days filled with online conference calls from home. As these new work patterns and new structures landed, it seemed time again slowed down. A working week felt like a month as we adjusted to these new ways, and rapid and repeated decision-making in the ‘new normal’. So what did happen to time? 


“Time perception is a field of study within psychology, cognitive linguistics and neuroscience that refers to the subjective experience, or sense of time, which is measured by someone’s own perception of the duration of the indefinite and unfolding of events¹.”


Of course, time itself is constant but there are several defined circumstances2 that change the way our brains perceive the passage of time. Here are some examples which may have influenced your perception of time during lock-down as you tried to strike a new work-life balance:

  • Vierordt’s Law: a tendency for us to judge short intervals as overly long, and long intervals as being short. 
  • Type of stimuli: it appears our recognition of auditory stimuli lasts slightly longer than visual stimuli possibly due to differences in our processing speeds.
  • Intensity of stimuli: greater intensity (volume, brightness) of stimuli appear to last longer for us than those with less intensity possibly due to prolonged excitation of nerves.
  • The Kappa Effect: a tendency for us to judge consecutive events as taking longer when you increase the length of the break between the two events.
  • Chronostasis: our eyes make quick movements (a saccade) when we look from one thing to another. These saccades create a slight blur between those things, which our brain doesn’t have any use for, essentially skipping us forward in time as far as our perception of time is concerned.


Were we data led?

So your perception of time may have changed during the crisis but did your appetite for data and information change too? Data-driven decision-making is the process of making decisions based on actual data rather than intuition or observation alone (which is a great way to challenge your cognitive bias).

You’ll have your own experiences throughout the coronavirus crisis of how you’ve processed and sourced guidance or advice. Maybe you discovered there weren’t enough data points because we had no past points of reference to guide us? Systems thinking reveals that we seldom have all the information, or information-processing ability, available to us to make the correct decision.

Here are some metric characteristics3 that (on reflection) might look familiar as you tried to make sense of how your world was changing: 

  • Comparative – a good metric can be compared across e.g. time periods, groups of users or competitors.
  • Understandable – good metrics can be remembered and discussed.
  • Ratio or rate – good metrics are easy to act on.
  • Changes the way you behave – good metrics are aligned to organisational goals or outcomes that are meaningful for the intended audience.


Uncovering uncharted risks

Framing a problem well means selecting the right decisions to make—ones that have a high value, that are actionable, and that produce outcomes that can be measured. Part of framing that problem is understanding the context in which the problem exists. This is central to understanding what data or information is needed and who needs to be involved in solving the problem. The context for most personal and professional decisions altered and continued to change rapidly during the crisis. 

This trend continues as society restarts and behaviours manifest differently than before. We’ve seen countless announcements in recent weeks as to how business operating models are changing; and those plans are accelerating. Where previous transformation ambitions felt bold in the old world they now feel necessary in the new world of shifted consumer expectations and client priorities.

Individually and collectively, we’ve all experienced the generational first of making far more and more frequent risk-based decisions. We’ve balanced the risk of infection with essential activities, we’ve been forced to balance maintaining organisational and business delivery against the financial uncertainty caused by the crisis.


Better decisions will shape your future

However you feel the last six months has impacted on your decision making, it is decisions about our collective future that matter now. As Lou Lai (Manifesto’s Transformation Director) neatly sums up:


“There is a sense now that it’s not just about survival today, but thriving beyond the horizon and reimagining our future. Manifesto believe that through the challenges, opportunities and change we are experiencing now, the sector will show how true organisational change and transformation is possible.4″


If your organisation is gearing up to embark on a change programme then please get in touch, we’d love to discuss how we can partner with you, and collaborate on the delivery of your transformation.

In the meantime, since there’s no one way to optimise your organisation’s decision-making process (what’s right for you depends on your people, structure, and stakeholders) we’ve devised a toolbox of approaches from a range of thinkers, aimed at helping you make collaborative, informed decisions.

Download our free whitepaper to support and enable your organisation to make better decisions faster.


1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_perception
2 https://www.healthguidance.org/entry/17225/1/How-Our-Brains-Perceive-Time-The-Study-of-Time-Perception.html
3 https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=VJS5qQWOKUIC&hl=en
4 https://www.civilsociety.co.uk/voices/louise-lai-fundraising-through-coronavirus.html

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