Top Tasks and COVID-19

One of the most important things I’ve learned as a result of observing the voting intentions of some 500,000 people in more than 100 countries is that there are indeed top tasks that are universal.

With Toyota we found that there are universal top tasks in relation to how Europeans approach buying a car. With the European Union we found that citizens of EU member states had very similar needs. With the World Health Organization we discovered that all over the world people had the same top tasks when it came to COVID-19.

Back around May and June, we also did country-specific Top Tasks surveys for COVID-19 in Canada, New Zealand, Norway and Ireland. These countries had so much in common. Their citizens wanted to know about the same basic things. One of the universal top tasks was, not surprisingly, “vaccine”.

We have now just completed a Top Tasks on the vaccine for the Irish government with the objective of finding out what matters most to people when it comes to making the decision to get the vaccine or not. While I can’t go into exact details, what I can say is that there are overwhelming top tasks among the Irish population. Young or old, health professionals or the general public, from rural or urban areas, people want to know about the same things.

The underlying consistency of top tasks is nearly always a surprise to organizations. Every department and manager likes to think they’re special and that their audience or customer base has unique needs. That can, of course, be the case. But it is surprising how much people have in common.

When we did the WHO study, the top tasks included:

  1. Vaccine (development, availability, safety)
  2. Latest news, latest research (alerts, directives, updates)
  3. Transmission, spread, epidemiology
  4. Immunity, antibody testing (criteria, availability, accuracy)

These were common across all the continents. They were common across age groups and genders. They were common for health professionals, academics and the public. When we later asked a large group to sort the tasks into classes, we found that health professionals were organizing things in the same way as the general public. There are common patterns out there, common mental models that can unify multiple audiences.

With the vaccine Top Tasks projects there was only one segment that stood out: those who were highly unlikely to get the vaccine. Even this group shared some of the tasks of the rest of the population. What was encouraging was that those who said that they were “unlikely” had more in common with the groups that said they would get the vaccine than with the “highly unlikely” group.

In February I’m going to be running my first online training session on Top Tasks. It will be a practical introduction to the key steps involved. There is a limit of 12 people and there will be lots of room for interaction. The price is €499 and you can get 10% off if you use this code before December 31: NTTT-10FF.

Top Tasks online training

This has surely been a difficult year. I wish you health and happiness for 2021.

The next issue will be published on January 11, 2021.

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