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  • Writer's pictureBill Holmes

The Importance of “framing”Part 9 – Getting it Right – COVID-19 – Part 1 (I Predicted the Future!)

When decisions are made, you better have someone in the room with a dissenting opinion!

“We humans don’t like uncertainty, so we are attracted to those who offer clarity and simple answers, even if the answers are wrong or incomplete.” Win Bigly, Scott Adams

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” Peter Drucker

On January 27, 2020 I predicted the future.

I publicly stated in this blog that the impact COVID-19 would be “very bad”. This occurred at a time when the news and major organizations were adopting a “nothing to see here, move along” approach to the building crisis. As a reminder, that was only 6 days after the first case appeared in the US, and before the President imposed a travel ban!

Why was I right when so many others were wrong? My framing of the issue. My frame was that this was a huge problem that very few were talking about, and when it got here it would be very bad.

You can test your framing of an issue (or the world for that matter!) by its ability to predict the future. My prediction was dead on.

How did I come to the correct frame on COVID-19?

There are two reasons; 1) I have exceptionally varied education and work experience 2) I have been an executive for a long time and have seen many large organizations make decisions.

The education and experience mean that I bring a lot of different disciplines to a given situation. For example, I am a trained economist and statistician. I have led large organizations and have been buried in the bowels of them. I have written books, taught classes and took part in more leadership courses than I can count. I also have significant international expertise, so I know how other parts of the world operate. This gives me a distinctly different perspective than other leaders. Many leaders tend to be highly technical in a specific field, but ironically that expertise often dramatically limits their ability to imagine possibilities or be creative in developing solutions.

My length of service means that I have seen large organizations make decisions for literally decades.

But why do large organizations make bad decisions? Because there is often a lack of experiential diversity among the decision makers, and they are completely unaware of those gaps in their decision-making processes. Additionally, there is usually a desire to embargo information until a complete plan is formulated. With no dissenting opinions, a lack of intellectual diversity and no feedback until the plan is well underway, it is a certainty that bad decisions will be made.

Having been “in the room”, I understand how such decisions are made and can often predict them well in advance.

With COVID-19 I saw a perfect storm.

The reports about the virus from “officials” around the world didn’t match the individual data points coming out of infected countries. My experience as an economist, analyst and statistician told me that. The complete lack of attention by large organizations to the rapidly approaching virus told me that the pattern of poor decision making would hold. Those would come together in a very bad way.

And they did.

Next, I’ll look at those decisions more closely and why so many got the frame on COVID-19 wrong.


My stock portfolio has been crushed over the past month! For those who subscribe to my blog, you know my investment strategy is to buy dividend aristocrats, put them on dividend reinvestment plans (DRIP) and forget about them. Since I don’t plan on pulling my investments out anytime soon, I should be ambivalent about the stock markets plummeting values. I am actually getting more equity with every dividend payment. That is my head. My heart is horrified when I look at the declining value.


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