Coronavirus! If you can’t fight it, join it!

It is not a secret for anyone that there is an ongoing global pandemic these days. Covid-19 (or how most people call it, coronavirus) is spreading fast and kills many. Pretty much the entire world now tries to find a solution for it and some countries are claiming that they already did, or at least found a way to contain and control the virus. Of course, we are not medical or biology professionals by any stretch of the imagination, but everyone is aware of how catastrophic this pandemic is for the global economy and the effect it has on everyone’s lives. In this article, we are going to examine one of the possible ways to deal with Covid-19, what kind of problems it creates and some proposals to solve those.

covid-19 effect on our lives

Current situation

As in any other innovation project, first, we need to understand the current situation.

Fortunately, today’s unfortunate situation is quite clear (see: https://covid19info.live/), and I want to reiterate what we said before:

A lot of people are getting rapidly infected across the world and many die as a result of complications.

Why is it bad?

Or, in our terms, what are the disadvantages of this situation?

Well, this part can be easy and complicated at the same time.
First of all, disadvantages can vary between different people and different contexts. For example, most of the countries put very clear restrictions in place. So, for somebody, the biggest annoyance is the fact that he can’t go to a local bar with his friends after work. Others complain that they are tired of being stuck with kids the whole day every day for the same reason. A large portion of the population is worried about the financial future. And the list is endless.
On the other hand, we need to determine what is the most important disadvantage. What is the single most important problem we want to concentrate on and eventually solve? That is often a much harder task.

For the purpose of this article, we want to concentrate on what we think are the most painful questions:

  1. How fast the world can achieve the desired goal? (we’ll talk about the goal in a bit).
  2. What is it going to cost? Or, how badly the world economy will suffer?

Problem statement

This phase in problem-solving and innovation is by far the most important. Before we jump into any solutions, proposals or ideas, we must understand what is the actual problem that we are planning to solve. Without a clear problem statement, we don’t have a clear target. As a result, the only thing that we can do is “shout out” random ideas (brainstorm). These might be great ideas but without a problem statement, they are not necessarily getting us any closer to the solution.

Despite what I just said, for this particular case, I want to invert the standard process and start with the proposed solution. Then we will analyze and try to solve those problems that it creates.

The solution: Controlled Herd Immunity

Of course, Herd Immunity was examined by more than one and, as far as I understand, even adopted by a number of countries. Others like the UK have dropped this idea. The main concern with this approach is that is will overwhelm the health system and eventually lead to even more deaths. This is definitely true. If the population continues with regular lives, the infection will spread uncontrollably, and the potential outcome is terrifying.

The other option is to create a “controlled herd immunity”. This of it as controlled release of medications. Why not “releasing” small groups of people at a time to develop immunity? The groups might be geographical areas, for example. This way we can control who is out there to catch the virus (assuming that we can define well enough the high-risk population). And the health system will not be overwhelmed, so anyone who needs special care will get it.

Many might say, but this is far from an ideal solution and creates other problems. And they will be absolutely correct. As I mentioned above, we want to concentrate on two of these problems:

  1. The proposed approach will take an unbearably long time to achieve the actual herd immunity
  2. It is not financially feasible as the economy will suffer beyond répare by the time we are immune

Addressing the downsides

Now, that we have clearly defined the problems, we can get to the actual work. We want to solve the two problems that I mentioned above and we want to do it with the help of the PRIZ Innovation Platform. But before we do that, I’d like to highlight two points:

  1. We are not trying to prove or dispute the effectiveness of herd immunity. At this point, we assume that it will eventually bring the pandemic to its knees.
  2. The platform does not solve any problems. It directs the problem solver, however, and focuses his attention on the problem he is currently working on.

The approach

For both problems, we followed a similar process.

Given the data that we already have, including the assumptions, is enough to build a contradiction. This means that we can use the Inventive Principles tool to break the contradiction.

Then we ranked the ideas that we generated from the previous step to decide what are the most important or most impactful options. And for that, we used Round Robin Ranking.

A small side note though, in this article we are not going to describe in details the entire process. Instead, we will jump into the solutions (or ideas) which we generated.

Solutions

The problem of time

The first problem that we decided to tackle is that the proposed controlled herd immunity will take an extremely long time. The goal of this exercise is to find a way how we can make the process faster without creating a higher risk situation.

  • Instead of releasing (infecting) one single area at a time, release smaller parts of all the areas in periods of time.
    For example, split the cities/areas/countries based on health system abilities in the area, so the hospitals are not overloaded and can provide care to the people who need it. Also, by doing this, we can pretty well control the potentially high-risk population (people over 60, people with respiratory diseases history, etc…)
  • Once someone is recovered he/she should take part in helping with the rest of the “operation”. (help in hospitals, provisions, logistics, etc…)
    I think this one speaks for itself. I cannot think of a reason why somebody who already recovered and immune would not get out there and start helping with whatever they can.
  • Distribute test kits for self-collection of samples to be sent back into the labs
    We know that some countries did that and it did help to raise awareness and self-quarantine. We are claiming that there is more benefit to it when we talk about achieving herd immunity.
  • Create a test kit that can provide results without a lab
    Very similar to the one above. However, much less realistic within this short timeframe as it requires a new tech to be developed and produced. But the idea is very much the same as the one above but reduces the tension on test labs even further.
  • Make it 100% clear who is at risk.
    This is an important one. Currently, we are trying to isolate the sick (or potentially sick). It should be inverted. We must protect the ones who are considered a population at risk. Make sure that they are healthy and isolated from the virus until the immunity is achieved.
  • Indicate the infected surfaces.
    This one is without a doubt pretty challenging and most likely does not worth the investment.
  • Group similarly ill people. So they can be taken care of in the same fashion within the same facility if needed and reduce the need for different specializations from the medical personal.
    In other words, it allows hospitals and medical personal to be as efficient as possible. I think the general practice is exactly that. However, I am not sure what happens in crisis situations.

The problem of economic crisis

For many people, this problem seems to be much more critical than the chance of getting infected. Countries and companies are definitely concerned about the financial future more than anything else. The following solutions are targetting the economics crises problem.

  • Move people from one sickness group to another when their condition changes.
  • Build a dynamic structure of groups to allow working and progressing
    The first two are very similar. In case that a particular group is capable of working and the only issue is being contagious, there is no reason that they can’t be productive without affecting others.
  • Fulfill missing critical positions with professionals that are normally not working in the fields of their profession
    For example, many biologists are working in the hi-tech industry, because it pays better; but in this situation, they can contribute to laboratories and help the crises.
  • Invest money only in firms that produce vital products or services.
    Of course, this will cause a lot of companies to fall, but the ones that will survive without subsidy are the ones that have a reason to exist. On top of it, instead of paying the companies so they can pay salaries, the people directly should be subsidized.
    Same applies for the fields of education
  • Make mass-media publish new people’s ideas and support innovation
    As usual, the media only talks about how bad things are. Our question is why isn’t media promoting innovation, especially in these difficult times.

Ranking the ideas

As the last step, we ranked all the ideas that we generated from both analyses. For simplicity, I want to highlight only the top-ranked ones and just mention what ended up being not important at all.

Overall ranking result

The highest-ranked ideas

  1. Fulfill missing critical positions with professionals that are normally not working in the fields of their profession
  2. Invest money only in firms that produce vital products or services.

These two are targeting the financial crisis that the world is facing as a result of the pandemic. But, if we give it a bit more thought, these solutions boost the chance of ending the pandemic in a more effective way.

Conclusions

In this exercise, we analyzed the possible solutions for two major problems that the world currently concerned with: how fast the Covid-19 pandemic can be resolved and now much it will eventually cost.

As a result, we proved again, that especially in such a crisis, money allocation is critical. With the right investments, the pandemic and financial crisis can be averted safely and efficiently.

An engineer, technology enthusiast & evangelist, entrepreneur and a happy father. Still learning problem solver and always will be...

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