Entrepreneurs and enterprise-level executives alike always attempt to build a resilient business that is robust enough to withstand unexpected storms. For example, contingency planning is hardly a novel concept, and many leadership teams of companies large and small engage in this critical activity. But the unprecedented nature and speed, scope, and scale of COVID-19 has brought new urgency to the quest for resilience.
At Pivot International, we bring nearly a half-century of expertise in product design, development, engineering, manufacturing, and supply chain solutions. Throughout our history, we’ve guided our partners through industry changes, economic ups and downs, and multiple waves of disruption. In the face of a global pandemic, we’ve continued to achieve explosive growth and drive our partners’ success across over 14 industries and multiple continents. With this in mind, let’s explore some of the key challenges to building resilience and five steps for creating it in your organization.
Identifying Challenges to Building a Resilient Business
Many leaders are using approaches or bringing assumptions to the table that make it challenging for them to build the resilience they’re seeking. First, we’ll identify four of the most common challenges, and then take a look at how leaders can overcome them.
Overly Concrete Metrics
Companies typically have an excessively concrete approach to measuring resilience. (If they attempt to measure it at all.) In the quest to maximize shareholder value, only easily quantifiable material risks are typically factored in equations of resilience. The failure to conceive of resilience in strictly objective terms holds significant danger.
Companies and shareholders tend to fixate on short-term gain at the expense of long-term resilience. Building a resilient business isn’t just about a shift from a short to long-term view. It’s about understanding the relationships between multiple time-horizons and how to optimize for return while remaining agile enough to quickly adapt to rapidly changing scenarios.
Linear, Static Thinking
Company leaders often focus on executing static plans within what is assumed to be a relatively linear and predictable environment. But disruption, by definition, is not linear, stable, clear, or, perhaps above all, predictable. Resilience requires non-linear thinking and an aptitude for working productively with instability and unclear causal relationships (complex systems). To defend against novel threats and act on emerging opportunities, leaders cannot rely on traditional planning and instead must learn in real-time and adapt accordingly.
The Illusion of Independence
Companies tend to view themselves as independent entities rather than interdependent actors that emerge from a larger socio-cultural, techno-economic, and geopolitical ecosystem. The crisis of COVID-19 has served to unmask this illusion, demanding that leaders come to terms with the extent of their dependence on supply chains, customers, and market trends. Resilience, in other words, can never be built in a vacuum.
Overcoming Challenges to Building Resilience: Mining Clarity From Confusion
When the challenges we just explored are not questioned, they prevent businesses from building resilience. But when these assumptions are questioned, they can become sources of guidance for achieving this critical task. In this way, leaders can mine clarity from the very challenges they’re trying to overcome to gain the following insights into new approaches for moving successfully forward.
Identify and Question your Assumption Sets
This is the central competency upon which all resilience depends. Leaders must make the shift from looking through a particular assumption to looking at it. Only in this way can they expose it to questioning and unlock its hidden guidance.
Rethink what resilience means and design new metrics
Resilience cannot be easily quantified, and leaders must look beyond concrete variables when assessing and building it. Understand that resilience has as much to do with a leader’s cognitive-emotional “operating system” and appetite for innovation as it does their ability to quantify objective risks. Design metrics that do equal justice to both.
Play the Long Game
Be unwilling to sacrifice short-term gain for long-term resilience. A fixation on efficiency at the expense of agility and adaptability means your business can succeed only in a fairly predictable market landscape. As many companies have recently learned, it’s not worth the gamble.
Learn to Learn — in Real-Time
As the businessman and futurist, Alvin Toffler said, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” Upgrade your ability to take a complex systems perspective and learn from the unfolding situation itself, rather than assuming you can come to the table with pre-fabricated solutions.
Contend with the Reality of Interdependence
No business is an island, but the insistence on behaving as if this were the case is hazardous to your company’s health. Account for and map the complex network of dynamic interdependencies (the larger ecosystem) that constitutes your business. The sooner you and your team can contend with this reality, the sooner you’ll be able to think adequately about building resilience.
If you’re seeking to build a more resilient business, Pivot International is the partner you’ve been looking for. Our one-source business model helps companies worldwide defy disruption, identify and seize emerging opportunities, and bring innovative products to market. Contact us today for a free consultation to learn more about how a partnership with Pivot can help your company grow in challenging times and scale for a new future.