How to Win at Pandemic

My family and I play a lot of board games, and one of our favorites is called PANDEMIC.

In the game, you work together to defeat a supervirus that’s taking over the world. I love PANDEMIC, because it’s a cooperative game, meaning you work together. You’re not competing against each other. The only enemy is the virus. You either all win the game together, or you all lose together.

The game is a pandemic simulator. Playing this game so many times over the past few years has given us some insight into how pandemics work. You learn that once the virus has hit Buenos Aires, and Seoul, and New York — well, it’s hard to understand exponential growth until you play PANDEMIC.

The game also helps you practice coordinating limited resources. “Alice goes to Sydney with the vaccine, Bob puts Washington under quarantine.” But the virus is unpredictable, and each round brings fresh surprises. You’re constantly improvising, adjusting, like a championship sports team (but much geekier).

Consider how New York governor Andrew Cuomo is organizing the state’s limited resources with his “Surge and Flex” strategy: encouraging hospitals to work together to share patient load, equipment and supplies. Hospital networks are siloed and walled off from each other, so this has never been tried before. But it’s the right approach.

Now scale this up to the country. Think of New York as the model for how other states—and the country as a whole—can manage the crisis. When the virus really hits Florida (which was slow to act, and has a large elderly population), New York will be able to send excess ventilators down to that state. Florida will then be able to pass their excess equipment to Texas. And so on.

Under this scenario, both coasts and major cities make it through the sickness first, then we work our way into the heartland of America over the next several months. Like the game, we “surge and flex,” working cooperatively to send supplies where they’re needed, each step of the way.

Now scale this up to the world. The virus still hasn’t hit half the planet yet. So we “surge and flex,” sending equipment and supplies to developing nations, as we’re able to spare them. We rely on global organizations like the World Health Organization and the United Nations to help coordinate.

But we also coordinate at a grassroots level. Every one of us can help this effort in some way. Surge and flex. Teamwork. Help get help where it’s needed. You don’t need someone to give you permission. Just do it.

The Economic Pandemic

That’s how we successfully navigate the health pandemic; now let’s move on to the economic pandemic.

I am still amazed by how many people are thinking this will “blow over,” with a “V-shaped recovery,” or a “bounce back.” They really think everything will be back to normal on May 4.

First, the bad news: things aren’t going back to normal on May 4. This will be a prolonged, systemic recession. Moreover, it will likely overturn the economic world order. (Bridgewater Associates founder Ray Dalio has done some great research on The Changing World Order. Spoiler alert: China.)

Now, the good news: things aren’t going back to normal on May 4. Folks: we are not going back to the way things were. Our shared history is history. The future – the opportunity – is to work together to create a New Normal. And we need to start working together on the New Normal, now.

That means accepting that the old mental models will not work in the New Normal. Again I call your attention to The Big Short, which did such a good job of explaining the 2008 financial crisis. Steve Carell’s performance at the movie’s climax, as the economy melts down, is freshly relevant today:

There’s only one way to solve this: together.

We can either be like the Bear Stearns guy, insisting that the system is working even while the economy is in freefall, or we can be like Steve Carell, reminding us of our shared human values.

Let’s compare two different approaches this week to dealing with the CoronaCrisis:

Going it alone (UK): The Bank of England is now directly financing the UK government, which means that instead of buying bonds, the bank is basically printing money to keep things going. (Visual image: Boris Johnson printing money from his ICU bed.)

Working together (EU): Meanwhile, the nations of the European Union have worked together on a $590 billion rescue package. “Today, we agreed upon three safety nets and a plan for the recovery, to ensure we grow together, not apart, once the virus is behind us,” said Eurogroup President Mário Centeno.

This is a GLOBAL pandemic. That means it requires a GLOBAL solution. The virus sees one human species. The old ways of thinking, the old ways of working, no longer work. We’ve reached the end of an era, and the beginning of a new one.

In order to survive – and to thrive – the entire world has to work together.

The EuroZone has got it right: to defeat this thing, we’ve got to band together in a spirit of “collective financial strength and European solidarity.” Guess who’s going to come out of this crisis ahead? (Spoiler alert: Germany.)

For all the countries that insist on “going it alone,” good luck. When you play PANDEMIC, you realize that renegade players will bring down the whole team. Cooperation is a different mental model than competition. Instead of “us vs. them,” you’ve got to get used to “us vs. virus.”

That’s the final piece of good news: humans are resilient. We can learn new ways of working. In fact, it’s how we’ve survived and thrived over the millennia, tested by countless challenges, enduring endless stretches of struggles.

It’s a New World. And we can learn a New World way of working.

One Money for One World

To recap:

Surge and flex: Fight the health pandemic by coordinating resources and supplies – at the local, state, national, and international level.

Spend and flex: Fight the economic pandemic by coordinating financial resources (i.e., the money supply) at an international level.

In other words: a one-world money is coming.

For the past few weeks, we’ve been talking about the need for a global money supply: a one-world money that will let us better coordinate this global financial crisis, which is likely to be prolonged and severe. (Do we really think we can solve this with dollars alone?)

Overseen by the International Monetary Fund (which is like the United Nations of money), this new “global currency” will be freely transferable anywhere in the world. Nations will still have their own money (you can still keep your dollars), but the new global currency is the final authority.

Simply stated, think of this like the monetary equivalent of Cuomo’s plan: we move the money to where it is needed, when it is needed. We still account for and control where the money is going: we’re not just freely printing money, like the Bank of England. Like PANDEMIC, we’re coordinating the global response.

The buck, literally, stops here.

Over the past few weeks, we ran a contest to name the new world currency, and I’m proud to announce our top three winners:

  • OneCoin (suggested by Liciniu A. Kovács)
  • UniCoin (suggested by Chuck Coffey)
  • UDC (suggested by Vaman Ramlall)

We’ll be sending a signed copy of BLOCKCHAIN FOR EVERYONE to the three winners.

Which of these names will catch on? Personally, I like the idea of carrying around “Unis” in my digital wallet, but we’ll let history decide. At least history now has some choices.

Working together is no longer just a feel-good catch phrase, or a cheesy motivational poster. It’s now necessary for humans to survive – and to thrive.

Let’s learn from the game PANDEMIC. A global threat requires a global response. When we work together, we win.

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