Crisis Management 101: When The System Fails The Individual.


The key to crisis management is to not put the blame on the shoulders of the individuals who caused the crisis, but instead look at the system that made those individuals fail.

Our flaws are predictable. If we operate within a system that allows individuals to make the same mistakes over and over again, causing great harm to the collective, it means the system is broken, not the individual.

Coming down on the individual only causes division between the ‘did’ and ‘did-not’. This division will then disrupt communication and cause lack of trust – which will eventually lead to destructive behaviour between the two groups.

Nobody wins when this happens.

Systems generally fail the individual, not the other way around. So, to prevent the crisis from happening over and over again, we’ll have to redesign the system. Easier said than done.

When the crisis is at its peak, it may seem attractive to design a system that monitors an individual’s every move to prevent their flaws from manifesting.

However, we must be careful to not remove the very things that make life enjoyable in the process. We must be careful not to remove freedom in the name of keeping everyone ‘safe’.

Think about the activities you enjoy most, the activities that make life worth living…. Are these activities less or more enjoyable when there’s a third party silently observing you from the corner of the room, judging your every move while you do it?

Individuals must have the freedom to be individuals, and with that comes the freedom to fail. If this freedom is taken away, it won’t take long before the brave will rebel or try to leave. After a while, all that the collective is left with are the docile.

Good riddance, the dictator might think. However, taking away individual freedom in the name of preventing the next crisis is not only harmful for the individual, it’ll ultimately lead to the demise of the collective.

As often shown throughout history, the moment we decide to sacrifice individual freedom for collective ‘security’, progress will stagnate. It’ll stifle creativity and crush the innovation the risk-seeking individuals bring to the table when they have the freedom to do so. The very same creativity and innovation the collective once benefitted from.

Growth is a function of risk. As such, limiting risk often means limiting – or even reversing – growth.

A more beneficial solution is to develop a system that creates an environment in which it’s safe for the individual to fail (even for the risk-seekers!). A system that is prepared for individual errors by design.

A system that is of service to both the collective and the individual.

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About the author

Wesley van der Hoop

Dutchman living in The Bahamas. I get excited about digital marketing, writing, traveling, surfing and learning new things.

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