Blessed and busy in lockdown

The Spanish government has extended the State of Alarm for another two weeks so IESE will continue to be closed and I and my colleagues will be teaching and conducting different webinars and classes from home.

Prof. Nùria Mas

Over the weekend IESE held two sessions for students who have been admitted to the MBA next year. My colleague, Núria Mas, was the guest speaker for the first one and I gave the second one. Both of us gave the talks remotely from our respective home offices.

Professor Mas, who is the Chair of IESE’s Economics Department and also a specialist on health care, made the point that the challenge for public policy is to manage the tradeoff between flattening the curve of viral infections, in order to avoid overstressing the health care system and minimizing the medium and long term economic impact.

I made more or less the same point on a more micro basis summarizing what I and my colleagues have been saying which is that during the crisis, management needs to find a balance between keeping people safe, which is the first priority, and making sure that the organization can survive the current emergency.

At the end of my talk to our new students, who I expect to meet face to face in September, I stressed how blessed I felt in the current situation. Although many people are gravely ill and thousands have died as a result of SARS-CoV-2,  I can only feel fortunate that the virus has spared the people closest to me at least so far.

I am also deeply grateful to the women and men who are working around the clock in Spain’s emergency services and health care system to manage the situation and save as many lives as they can. Every evening at 8 P.M. our entire neighborhood, and much of the country, step out onto the balcony to give these people applause which they duly deserve.

In addition to health care workers, critical parts of the economy such as grocery stores, delivery people, supply chains and other services are still functioning making life during the emergency possible. All of this renews my faith in the resilience of our modern society at least in the West.

Finally, I am grateful that my friends and family have enough money, food and wifi connectivity so that we can not only get through these weeks but continue to make a positive contribution and get things done.

Every day I remind myself of how privileged my family is.  The harsh truth is that most people in the world will not have this experience if and when the virus gets to them. During the session on Saturday, a student from Zimbabwe called attention to the fragility of large parts of civil society in Africa and how many people make their living day to day in crowded markets. A shut down for those societies may not be possible and their health care infrastructure is much less robust than it is here in Spain. An article in the New York Times paints a grim picture in India as a  result of a sudden lockdown imposed by Narendra Modi.

Even here in the West, there are many, many people who are suffering during the emergency without all of the benefits some of us enjoy.

As the lockdown we are experiencing in Spain spreads out to other parts of the world, I encourage those of you who can, to think about the projects and work that you may have been putting off for lack of time. The reading and the writing that you should have been doing. The web site you always wanted to build.

Prof. Sandra Sieber

As an example of what can be done, my colleague Sandra Sieber has used the experience she gained moving IESE online over the last few weeks to launch a web site to help school teachers also go online. The site is still only in Spanish but if interested, you can visit it here.

Thankfully, the number of new cases in Spain has dropped for the last few days so we may be on the downward slope of the curve. We can only hope that the State of Alarm is lifted in the next few weeks and the country will come back to some semblance of normality.

In the meantime, I have webinars to prepare and classes to teach. For that, I am also grateful.