The covid-19 problem has presented useful information about how bureaucracies work. They are good at administering solutions for known problems. And they never check to see if the problem still exists.
We have seen in the United States the complete failure of the health bureaucracies. The FDA, CDC, and others. They have been held to ridicule by some and ignored by others. The question we should ask ourselves is what should we have expected?
The FDA spent more than a year before permitting the use of rapid test kits. That was irresponsible as it turned out. You cannot control or even influence what you cannot see and keep track of. It is wrong, but we should have known. Bureaucracies are good at only one thing. Supervising known situations. They are good at the routine and completely inept at the novel.
The CDC was theoretically the agency that deals with pandemics and things related to them. The CDC no doubt has solved many problems but having solved one, the solution became part of the routine. Polio, measles, and dozens of other fell to their efforts, but what do you do when you have solved all the obvious problems? You cannot wind up because too many people rely on the agency for their job. So, something must be found. Usually minutia. Perfecting what exists and is known. Better vaccines, better delivery, careful study of tiny outbreaks, public relations, and nurturing the political crowd.
The emergency response element of their purpose becomes lost in the routine.
Status quo decisions are, by definition, useless against problems outside the normal. Pandemics are well off the normal playing field. The breakdown happens because status quo maintenance strives for perfection. In contrast, new situations require the ability to explore. That is antithetical to the perfection mindset. Perfection minded decision makers err to the side of abundant caution and caution takes time. Time not available in times of crisis.
The key to solving novel situations is similar to bet management in poker. In the early going, a bet is information seeking. With their response, your opponent sends you a message about their hand. Similarly, in a pandemic situation you should invest in small tests. You learn from what you see. You have the choice of continuing or quitting the particular test. Study of outcomes gives important clues to what works and what does not. Unfortunately, the bureaucratic mindset is anti-fail, so the multi-test approach, when most are expected to fail, is too uncomfortable to consider. Perfection is your enemy in any situation not within the status quo.
Experimenting is decision oriented. Observe, decide, act, observe outcomes, re-orient, decide again, act again. Do it is as fast as possible to come to an answer that works. No bureaucracy works that way. We don’t have anything that works that way within the government structure. Could we, or should we just help the market to adapt?
Bureaucracies solve and continue to solve problems from the past. The entrepreneurial approach is about trying new things.
Joseph Land has identified the important fact, “There is no future in the past.”
Why are we relying on bureaucratic scientists for help? They Are the least likely to solve the problem, even identify it. With due respect to Dr. Fauci and others in similar positions, the problem is outside your acquired daily skills. You may have the nominal knowledge and experience, but your mindset defeats you.
Bureaucracies cannot get out of their own way. That won’t change.
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