A postcard from Professor Wendy Smith

Sent from Delaware.

To listen, click ▶️ on the postcard.

Here’s the transcript of Professor Smith’s message:

Hi, this is Wendy Smith for the Culture Lab Podcast. One thing that we know is that crises like the ones that were living through at the moment fuel tensions and competing demands as we navigate dilemmas. Like how do we stop the spread of this virus in the short term while keeping the long-term economic and mental health and health implications in mind? How do we think about making decisive, clear decisions at a centralized, universal level while also allowing for more nuance and specificity at local levels? How do we continue to allow our organizations to do the things we do best – businesses usual, our current products and services – and at the same time pivot to meet a new reality. How do we protect ourselves and at the same time reach out to others, address the needs of the most vulnerable, be compassionate? All of these competing demands require our attention and what we also know is that crises with their extreme amount of uncertainty fuel anxiety. So that the way that we want to respond to these kinds of crises is by making an either-or decision, by being conclusive by being clear – by seeing these crises as trade-offs. And deciding which of these alternative options we should pick first. But what we know from our research is that these kinds of “either-or” approaches to these tensions are limited at best and really detrimental at worst. We really do need to focus on the short-term and stop the spread of the virus, But it cannot be at the expense of what the long-term implications will be and we can’t just focus on the long-term at the expense of the short term we have to do both. And so really it’s in these moments that “both-and” thinking that seeing the interconnectedness between competing demands that changing the question from an either/or question to how we can accommodate both how we can accommodate and attend two competing demands simultaneously will really leave us with or enable us to have a much more generative, creative, and sustainable response to this crisis. So what I hope for us as leaders is that we can rise to the challenge. We can spot the “either-or” thinking that leads us into a narrow place, that comes from a place of fear, and that we can be more expansive, that we can live in the discomfort of the uncertainty, and think about the “both-and” options both to sustain us through this crisis to get us out of this crisis and perhaps as the silver lining – to learn from this pandemic and this crisis and that it will result in a more sustainable future going forward. 

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