Thinking like a scientist to combat COVID fatigue

Anger, depression, anxiety, physical exhaustion, difficulty focusing and lack of motivation are all symptoms of a phenomenon called ‘COVID fatigue’. You’ve probably noticed some, if not all, of these symptoms in yourself or others since the pandemic began.  

We’ve seen COVID fatigue have a huge impact on individuals and businesses over the past year, so we undertook research to help better understand how to tackle it and develop policies to support staff, mitigate risks and promote wellness. 

We often work with scientists to collect research and data to inform strategic thinking. So, it made sense that we turned to one of our researchers (who also happens to be a scientist) to figure out how to approach this problem in a rigorous way. 

We used the strategies outlined below to ‘think like a scientist’ and generate robust solutions. While we applied these steps to the issue of COVID fatigue, you can use them to better understand any problem you’re trying to solve. 

1. Define the problem

Albert Einstein famously said that if he had one hour to solve a problem, he’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.

The way a problem is framed will shape the approach to finding a solution and what the outcomes are expected to accomplish. For example, some questions we asked ourselves at this step were “What do we mean by COVID fatigue?” and “Do we want to prevent it or mitigate it?” 

It’s natural to want to jump straight into solution generation, but you’ll produce the best outcomes by taking the time to drill down to the issue you want to solve as clearly and specifically as possible.

2. Outline your goals

At this step, it’s useful to ask why you want to solve the problem.

There may be multiple goals associated with each problem. It’s important to assess if all goals can be addressed, or if some goals are more important than others. 

The path to a solution becomes clearer when we understand both where we are and where we want to be. 

3. Question what data is required

The type of information you can access will factor into both defining the problem and understanding the outcome. 

First, look at what information is readily available to you. Then identify what other data may be valuable in solving the problem. 

It can be tempting to gather any and all information related to your problem – but it’s important to be selective about the data you choose to use. 

Asking these questions can help you decide what data will help achieve your goal and what is just ‘noise’: 

  • How do I know what is currently being used or promoted is effective?
  • How certain am I that it will help me attain the desired outcome?

4. Measure success

Quite simply, you cannot manage what you cannot measure! 

It’s important to define (in measurable terms) what success looks like. Take the time to think about how you will know your question has been answered and that you’re tracking the right parameters. 

Solving complex business problems is what we do best at Three Chairs Consulting, whether that’s helping organisations buffer the impacts of COVID-19 or any other systems challenge. 

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