On Birds, Nets and Teamwork

I hope you are well and have had a lovely holiday. I’m busy with the DIA, client projects, lots of sport and sharing my thoughts in today’s newsletter. Topics of the day:

Birds in Nets, Strength and Freedom
The Spider and the Comfort Zone Conundrum
Current and Future Pandemics. A new role for Pharma?
But it’s always been this way…..and what to do about it

Twenty years ago, I gave my dad a grapevine.  This weekend a bird got caught in the netting. My siblings ran to the rescue. I immediately took control and asked for a tea towel to wrap the bird in, scissors and tweezers. Assisted by my siblings I gently freed the bird, the tail feathers, the feet, the wing-tips. I held its body in my hand, felt the anxiously fluttering heart, and looked into its frantic eyes. I was frightened  I would hurt it. Wings, feet and tail free the bird  flew off.  “I’m so glad you were here” my sister said “I could not have held the bird. Well I could but only if I had to”. Her comment reminded me that we all have different strengths. In good teams we complement one another. In great teams we also celebrate one another. When challenged by difference I find it helps to explore the lessons the difference holds.

The Spider and the Comfort Zone Conundrum
Recently I was out for drinks. A spider fell into my glass. Saved from certain death by landing on a slice of lemon. I fished out the lemon and dropped the spider in a flower pot. And I refused the waiter’s offer of a new glass. The entire table congratulated me on my bravery. I pointed out that I am unafraid of spiders. Hence, my action was wholly unremarkable. Once., during a team-building event,  I was asked to step out of my comfort zone, I was blind-folded, told to hold my managers hand, and to trust him to lead me through the forest. The memory still makes my stomach clench. If you ask others to step outside their comfort zone, make sure, you too, are stepping out of yours. 

Getting Ready for the Next Pandemic
While living in Africa a friend was on a trip. Passing by a remote village he was told “many people are dying here”. Later he heard that the entire village was wiped out. After initial symptoms of fever patients died within three days. The reason for the deaths was never clarified. The local population attributed the deaths to witchcraft. 

Early signal detection is key for pandemic management. Signal detection depends on access to good data. A quote on COVID from an epidemiologist “We were doing elegant math on crappy data”. The next pandemic will likely arise in a remote area. Telemedicine and digital tools enable us to access and support remote populations in ways that were no possible ever before. Humanitarian organizations are not resourced to roll-out broad monitoring programmes. However, pharma companies are expanding their reach. Integrating early infectious disease detection into other initiatives, working with local governments,  could be relatively straightforward and cost-neutral.

For more information on, what we have learned from COVID about pandemic management (spoiler: not enough); and on how well we are prepared for the next pandemic (spoiler, not very well) you can find the article here: . Nature link

But it’s always been done this way…and other Myths
My friend’s son does video-edits. He recently asked me if I have an old television from around 2001. I said no. Then he asked if I have access to a VHS machine. I said yes. On a whim I texted him “Do you need a fax machine?”. The response: “What’s that?”. My response “seriously?”. His “Yes”. The truth is, time waits for no man. Nothing has been done a certain way forever. Things change all the time. If you don’t think there is a better way of doing what you have been doing, and you haven’t reassessed it recently, chances are you are missing an opportunity. Beware the way of the fax machine…..

Photo by Boris Smokrovic on Unsplash