The definition of resilience, as it pertains to business, has changed. In the past, highly resilient organizations were those that could maintain market share in the face of increased competition, weather the storms of demand volatility or industry disruption, and quickly recover after experiencing setbacks. Resilience was about preservation.
Today, resilience is about adaptation.
The challenges facing modern businesses are increasingly complex and multifaceted, and they’re compounding faster than ever before. Long-term sustainability depends on the ability to identify threats and opportunities quickly and to evolve accordingly. Organizations can’t merely address one or some of the forces impacting them; they must address them all.
At Pariveda, we understand the implications of a rapidly changing business landscape because we’ve had to navigate it, too. Until fairly recently, a consultancy like ours would help clients address a particular set of circumstances and make recommendations to get from point A to point B. However, today’s challenges necessitate a different approach to long-term sustainability.
Now, our focus is on ensuring they understand when, how, and where to move, regardless of circumstances. In essence, our goal is to help clients become amorphous so that they can rapidly adapt to and capitalize on changing business conditions.
To that end, we’re excited to introduce the Pariveda Resiliency PlatformTM, designed to help clients address three specific catalysts driving the need for a new definition of resilience.
The compression of change
Major technological advancements used to take place over the course of a century or more. Over time, the cycle has shortened, with breakthroughs occurring every half-century, then every few decades, and so on. Today, groundbreaking innovation seems to occur almost daily. We no longer have the luxury of time to study new technology, understand its implications or even comfortably integrate it into our lives. The compression of technological change creates a ripple effect that leads to a simultaneous change in business models, markets, and consumer behavior. For businesses, keeping pace will continue to grow more difficult — unless you have a clearly defined purpose.
By using purpose as a proverbial North Star, leaders can make better decisions about where to focus their time and investments regarding new technologies. Truly resilient companies will learn to recognize technology patterns that enable or accelerate the pursuit of their purpose, as well as trends that might disrupt that pursuit. Not only will this allow them to better anticipate and meet the needs of their customers, but it will also enable them to work more effectively with vendors, suppliers, and other partners.
Our world is more connected than ever, and modern businesses don’t operate in a vacuum. Especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, customers and partners are continually looking for ways to cope with new pressures. Their evolving attitudes and behaviors will inevitably have implications for the organizations they do business with, which is why resilient companies will monitor these developments closely.
The confluence of disciplines
We’re increasingly witnessing the marriage of formerly unrelated fields, opening the doors to new problem-solving approaches and business opportunities. Already, we’ve seen the emergence of domains like neuro hacking (combining neuroscience and engineering) and circular economies (sustainability and manufacturing), as well as countless other hybrid disciplines.
As this trend continues, resilient businesses will find ways to capitalize. The possibilities for taking advantage of unlikely combinations range from the relatively mundane—creating operational efficiencies and cost savings, for instance—to the truly groundbreaking, like devising innovative new products and business models.
Taking advantage of the confluence of disciplines requires domain expertise, intensive research and an innate curiosity. You must be willing to learn about disciplines that are unconventional or unrelated to your business, even if they don’t appear to present any immediate opportunities. Open-minded leaders who engage in the purposeful exploration of new topics and ideas will ultimately build companies that benefit from this pursuit, while others will be at the mercy of disruptors.
At Pariveda, we often use the Cynefin framework to identify and distinguish between simple, complicated, complex, and chaotic systems. What we’ve noticed is that the accelerating pace of technological change is amplifying the complexity of our environment. Formerly complicated challenges that could be solved with the straightforward application of an adapted methodology or framework are now complex, necessitating different (and often entirely new) problem-solving approaches.
The steady increase in environmental complexity has been accompanied by corresponding increases in volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA). Accordingly, businesses must change the habits they’ve historically relied on to proactively and reactively respond to these new conditions. Tackling complex problems requires longer mental cycles and greater patience, as well as different skills, methodologies, and best practices than those used to solve complicated problems.
Resilient businesses will work to ensure their approaches reflect the nature of the challenges at hand. Moreover, they’ll adopt effective techniques and strategies for discerning between classes of problems and will avoid settling for solutions that only address symptoms or aspects of complex challenges; otherwise, those challenges will linger (and could worsen).
A new perspective on change
Ultimately, modern organizations must embrace change to be resilient. The Resiliency Platform empowers this mindset in a multitude of ways. First, it facilitates the creation of essential feedback loops by instituting sensors in critical systems, for example. As these gather data, organizations can garner insights that drive smarter decision-making and more decisive action.
It also relies on techniques such as triple-loop learning to power incremental growth. Through small experiments, organizations can more easily explore the implications of change and gain a better understanding of how to absorb and accept it on a larger scale.
Moreover, the platform helps organizations establish the right conditions for creating a culture that embraces change. People aren’t always comfortable with even small changes, and that discomfort is amplified when they feel threatened or afraid for basic needs. By empowering employees with clear expectations and boundary conditions, organizations can foster an environment that feels simultaneously safe and conducive to growth.
At the core of the Resiliency Platform is Pariveda’s definition of resiliency: always sensing, always learning, always adapting. That definition and the philosophy it stems from are then applied to technology to drive innovation, product development to augment delivered value, and strategy and process creation to ensure business model execution and resilient operations.
Most important, it’s exemplified by people, teams, and leaders.
A platform for people
Though Pariveda specializes in building technology solutions, our first priority is developing people — and resilience is more about people than technology. Again, in order to create a truly resilient organization, leaders must cultivate an environment where employees feel valued and empowered. These four leadership and management strategies will help:
Create autonomy with accountability
By trusting employees and giving them the autonomy to make critical decisions at the edge (where they are closest to the situation), you allow them to maximize their contributions to your organization. As a result, they feel valued and have a heightened sense of belonging. This autonomy must be coupled with accountabilities and clear expectations, which can be developed collaboratively by managers and employees. That approach gives employees more ownership over their roles and allows them to share their own perspectives and ideas on the activities that should be central to their jobs.
Establish behavior expectations
Organizations can only achieve resilience if employees respect and trust one another. Setting clear behavior expectations that are tied to your company’s core values is key to building a culture in which trust and respect can flourish. When employees can count on these standards (which might include empathy, collaboration, or transparency, for example) being upheld, they’ll be more equipped to work together effectively in the face of uncertainty.
Be brave enough to be vulnerable
Resilience isn’t a destination but a journey. When working in a highly volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world, failure is inevitable. As a leader, it takes courage to accept and learn from setbacks — particularly when they’re highly visible to your employees, customers, or the public. Your team wants you to lead confidently, but they don’t expect you to be perfect. Owning mistakes and acknowledging your flaws will benefit you as well as the people counting on you. They are on their own journeys toward resilience, and by showing them it is safe to try and to fail, you’ll encourage the type of evolution and innovation that defines a resilient workforce.
Recognize and reward performance
The more you invest in the people you depend on, the more they’ll invest in you and in themselves. By establishing a system for recognizing and rewarding hard work, accountability, and a willingness to take on tough problems, you reinforce the foundational elements of resilience. As these traits continue to be reinforced, they can gradually become defining characteristics of your organization: an organization that’s not just built to last, but built to thrive no matter what changes lie ahead.