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它一直建议that the rapid spread of the Omicron Covid-19 variant is because of its capacity to shorten doubling times in infections. Doubling is a characteristic of exponential change which has been described as ‘unintuitive’ (or counter-intuitive), which means it can easily distort consequential judgements by leaders as to when and how to act effectively. They tend to act too late, and then overshoot.

人类思维展览a bias朝向线性变化,这会导致人们经常对待指数增长,就像是线性的一样,当事实并非如此时,这当然是危险的。Growth that multiplies and then multiplies again for a period of time (exponential), is very different to growth that is additive, building incrementally in equal chunks over time (linear).In the case of the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK, treating the exponential growth of the virus as if it was linear has often miscommunicated a true account of the situation to citizens, and complicated public policy responses. For example, a wait and see or ‘gradualist’ approach in the early stages - a course of action well suited to linear growth –caused a number of problems including not scaling up an effective community testing and response system quickly enough.

Developing ways to counter the human bias against taking exponential growth seriously is not only essential for successfully addressing a pandemic like this, but also to successfully engage with other future issues characterised by such change. An example is the impact of continuing with a ‘business as usual’ economic growth trajectory as the exponential changes of climate change ramp up.

Early in the pandemicwe noticed指数增长模式可能引起的迷失方向和错误计算。从那以后,我们一直与公共和私营部门领导人合作,以评估如何更好地解决指数增长。


  • Be discerning about growth trajectories.您正在处理指数变化或线性变化的更具特征的本质吗?评估这一点的一种快速方法是查看生长是否具有乘法性(指数增长),或者生长是否通过恒定量增加(线性变化)。指数示例包括在社交媒体上“病毒”的故事;“破坏”的技术;侵入性物种(包括害虫)“繁殖”超出了宿主人群的控制;和使债务“高空”的复杂利率。
  • Acknowledge and validate the experience of unfamiliarity and disorientation that exponential growth can cause.在大流行开始时,这种经历尤其明显,许多领导人不确定如何理解迅速发展的事情。了解他们的指数偏见有助于他们意识到这种混乱不仅源于大流行本身,而且还来自他们对大流行不太容易遵守的增长方式的更线性期望。
  • 使用方案熟悉指数变化的潜在影响。似是而非的scenarios of the future context enable leaders ahead of time to explore the potential impact of such growth. In this tradition, scenarios are opportunities to explore and learn thereby helping leaders ‘settle in’ to potentially unfamiliar futures and to trial different policy and strategy responses. For example,preparing for the next potential pandemic.
    • 特别注意沟通。Be careful not to extrapolate exponential growth figures without acknowledgingthat they will peak at some point. And where relevant, use language and concepts that are more widely known to explain growth trajectories.For example, the story of the lily pond (where one lily emerges on day one, doubling every day until the pond is half covered on the 47th day and completely covered on the 48th day)can be a helpful way to convey exponential growth,while a straight line trending up can explain linear change – or even showing the contrast in the shape of the curves as in the visual above.
    • Appreciate the need forresiliencein systems.Exponential growth can be experienced as a shock that will stress and expose fragilities in systems in ways that linear change may not. The pandemic for example has exposed stress points in the UK National Health Service, as well as just-in-time supply chains. Assessing what aspects of a business or society are subject to exponential growth will help to focus attention on those aspects of a system that need reinforcing.

    * Trudi Lang is Senior Fellow in Management Practice and Rafael Ramirez is Professor of Practice at Sa一世d Business School, University of Oxford. They have previouslywritten关于指数增长和方案计划and lead the牛津场景计划.

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