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We do not need “more complicated communication”

According to the BBC (online and TV), the PM wrote in the Mail on Sunday that more complicated messages were needed during the next phase of the response and as restrictions changed.

Either the BBC or the PM (and the rest of the government) doesn’t understand the difference between “Simple”, “Complicated” and “Complex”. They should look up Dave Snowden’s Cynefin Model (or read my latest Best of Health blog!).

We are in a world of “unknown unknowns”; i.e. complexity. The appropriate approach is to take small steps and see if they move us in the right direction. That doesn’t mean the associated communication should be complex (or complicated).

It might be argued that we are moving from complexity to a “complicated” situation because there are numerous other countries ahead of us in this pandemic. “Complicated” means we are dealing with known-unknowns and can analysie the situation to come to a conclusion about what must be done. Here, we are reliant on experts and identifying good practices that have been shown to work elsewhere.

We are definitely not in the world of “Simple” or “Obvious” problems or solutions (known-knowns), however much people might want us to be here.

Stay alertWe certainly do not need more complicated communications from the government. We need clear communication that helps people to understand the complexity of the situation, WHY actions are being taken and how things may still change at short notice. People need to understand that it will take time for patterns (of success or failure) to emerge as we move out of lockdown. We need MORE communication and we need to listen even more to conflicting evidence from a diverse range of expert opinions so that we don’t get driven by a narrow group of over-confident experts.


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