COVID-19: How learning and applying the concept of “Legs Decisions” can help us through the crisis

President Trump, like many other leaders in the world is facing a hard decision. How and when are we ending the lockdown that is currently in place in most parts of the world to control the SARS-CoV-2 virus? Trump describes it as the hardest decision he has to face in his presidency. According to his statement on Fox News on the 12th of April, he is going to take this decision “based on a lot of facts and a lot of instincts”.

Some commentators believe, his approach might be less balanced than communicated above, rather favoring “instinct” over “facts” while “health advisers say data is key”. Whichever way the President of the United States is going to take the decision in the end, I like to argue in this article that the current crisis shows more clearly than ever before that the simple framework of “head” versus “gut” is more than outdated and unsuitable to solve the current crisis.

With very little knowledge about the virus, without a vaccine or reliable treatment, the most promising strategy that is followed by most world leaders can be summarized with “Hammer & Dance“.

  • Hammer – trying to stop the spread with “social distancing” & lockdowns (“heavy social distancing”).
  • Dance – Lifting the restrictions step by step (“release the measures, so that people can gradually get back their freedoms and something approaching normal social and economic life…”).

In the following I will show that the “Hammer & Dance” strategy does in fact incorporate some of the most important aspects of what I call “Decision Timing” and “Legs Decisions”.

Legs Decision (deutsch "Beinentscheidung") part of the iterative process of Decision Timing where several decision options are proactively tried and tested, Picture: Brian A Jackson

Legs Decision (deutsch “Beinentscheidung”) part of the iterative process of Decision Timing where several decision options are proactively tried and tested, Picture: Brian A Jackson

Key in understanding the current crisis and the concept of Legs Decisions is that we are dealing with a highly dynamic situation. We have very little data about possible outcomes of the various options for instance in releasing some of the restrictions currently in place. We just have to try some of the options that are most promising without running the risk of producing outcomes that we cannot control or rectify.

In this situation we can only afford to fail in a small way (the dance part of the strategy), not in a big way.

In comparison to the gut aspect of the decision which is largely based on the current perception and perspective of what we can see or expect (or rather cannot see or do not expect), the “Legs Decision or Perspective” is future and test oriented. We actively have to consider and develop workable options that need to be tested to verify whether they are worth pursuing or not.

Here the head decision or data perspective particularly the historic data will not be enough. We have to be creative, constructive and proactive in testing and asking questions that do not come to mind easily.

Decision Timing for that part is the process that sets aside the time or time frame (lead time) in which we can gather the necessary data, carry out the right trials and ask the right questions.

Gut decisions (instinct) and head decisions (facts, historic data) are useful, but as everybody can experience at the moment, are not enough. We actively and conscientiously have to use the time that we have gained by (flattening the curve) to come up with the then tried and tested options that will help us to get through the crisis successfully.

The best way to do this is to apply the “dance part of the strategy” by using “legs decisions” in conjunction with our “head” and our “gut”.

We are collectively facing one of the biggest challenges in our lifetime so we should be prepared to use whatever is necessary to overcome this challenge.

Welcome to the “Legs Decisions”.