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Issue #32 - Panic and Neglect Cycle 🎡

Mental Models Weekly
Issue #32 - Panic and Neglect Cycle 🎡
By Julia Clavien • Issue #32 • View online
Anyone else been consuming an unhealthy amount of news lately?! I’ve noticed a lot of criticism of governments for not being prepared for the current pandemic. It got me thinking about this particular mental model - the cycle of panic and neglect.

What is a panic and neglect cycle?
People and organizations have a tendency to panic when there is a threat and ramp up efforts to handle the threat, and prepare for any future threat. However, a period of neglect tends to follow, as the threat is forgotten - starting off a cycle of panic and neglect.
Why is this interesting?
It’s easy to identify a panic and neglect cycle in terms of the current COVID-19 pandemic. Some governments were somewhat prepared, but others were in a phase of neglect.
There is an organization that was setup by the World Bank and the World Health Organization to “provide independent monitoring and accountability body to ensure preparedness for global health crises”. It’s aptly named the “Global Preparedness Monitoring Board”. Here’s an excerpt from their report last year:
There is a very real threat of a rapidly moving, highly lethal pandemic of a respiratory pathogen killing 50 to 80 million people and wiping out nearly 5 percent of the world’s economy.
For too long, we have allowed a cycle of panic and neglect when it comes to pandemics: we ramp up efforts when there is a serious threat, then quickly forget about them when the threat subsides.
It’s common to see a cycle of panic and neglect in the public sector, but it’s also possible to identify the cycles in private organizations. Security is one example. After a breach, there’s panic, but after time passes, a period of neglect often occurs.
I can also identify this cycle on a personal level even in small ways - for example after a period of “dietary neglect” I’ll panic-fill my fridge with vegetables!
Can you identify any cycles of panic and neglect in your personal or professional life?
Photo by Bart Ros
Photo by Bart Ros
Want to go deeper?
💭 Go on a tangent thinking about how different forms of government and political systems might lead to different panic and neglect cycles. For example I wonder if democracies with only a few years between elections might tend to neglect areas such as pandemic preparation, compared with an authoritarian regime.
It’s also interesting to consider the impact of political system on threat response (the “panic” phase) - here’s an analysis of that.
🔖 Here’s the complete 2019 report from the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board
🔖 Here’s a business focused refection on panic and neglect cycles
🧠 Speaking of neglect, why not revisit Issue #22 - Entropy 🛀
Got comments?
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Julia Clavien

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