What is Resilience?

The concept of resilience is key to both organizations and disaster relief efforts. Resilience, or resiliency, is an organization’s ability to react to events, predict future problems, and create value. A resilient organization is able to stay functional and ordered while enduring through changes. Resilience deals with a number of issues like preparedness, security and survivability.

The Roots of Resiliency

The concept of resiliency in an organizational context is thought to have been first used by Stephen Flynn, a Senior Fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations. He wrote of resiliency in his book titled: America the Vulnerable: How Our Government is Failing to Protect Us from Terrorism. In it Flynn believed that America’s way of life could be severely disrupted if terrorists attack its infrastructure. He believed that water systems, bridges, tunnels, ports and electrical grids are all vulnerable targets and poorly secured. If attacked, the United States’ economic activity could grind to a halt – which would of course be devastating. Flynn argued that infrastructure should be made as resilient as possible – to absorbe shock and adapt to some break-down – so that we can move forward to the best of our ability when the next attack or disaster occurs. There is now a push for private and public organizations to work together – essential cooperation – in order to better prepare for inevitable disruptions. We should expect large-scale crises at home and abroad. The key is how to prepare and react to such instabilities.

Defining Resiliency

While every organization faces significant challenges, proactive groups that are prepared will be able to thrive in the face of adversity. Resilient groups are more than just reactionary and defensive. They can withstand a dramatic crisis while preparing for oncoming situations, changes and threats. Resilient leaders are aware of their group’s current standing, vulnerabilities, risk-reward ratios and what sort of means they have to properly deal with challenges. They have anticipated their communications needs and they are capable of making quick decisions that are well-informed and strategic in nature.

The Value of Resiliency

Resiliency has never been more important. Today, organizations face more disruptions than ever before. Weather patterns have become increasingly unpredictable, natural disasters occur at a high frequency, there is a constant threat of a terror attack, and financial markets have wild fluctuations. Leaders throughout the private and public spheres are beginning to recognize the value of resilience thinking. All of the potential problems listed above impact both the private and public realms even though it is the public officials who receive the most publicity for their disaster relief actions and statements. Those who keep level heads and embrace change put themselves in a position to move forward with success. They admit that calamities do and will happen. Resilient leaders have the foresight to plan for the worst possible scenario and the wherewithal to endure through the drama in a resilient manner. This stability serves as an inspiration to the rest of an organization’s personnel.

While the landscape is changing and new challenges are recognized, conventional notions of risk management and models to maintain stability must be left behind. Members of both the private and public spheres must adopt the concept of resiliency. Instead of allowing disruptions to negatively impact operations, we should create the dynamics to follow in the event of such large-scale problems. Organizations that have invested in resiliency plans will have a competitive advantage compared to groups that have not prepared. Simply put, resilient leaders recognize that efficiency standards must be tightly intertwined with proactive security measures and disaster preparedness.

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