Competitiveness and Innovation

Adaptive Resilience

10 Dec 2020  

At the beginning of the global pandemic, I recommended that organizations undertake value pivots.  I’m gratified to see how many industries are now doing this — with varying levels of success, but, too often, as a matter of survival.

Here’s a summary of how various industries are pivoting toward new value models:

Airlines Passenger travel Freight
Disney Theme parks Streaming
Movie studios Theatrical release Streaming
Airbnb Distance locations Drivable locations
Restaurants Indoor dining Outdoor dining and delivery
Hotels Overnight stays Day (work) stays
Retailers Brick-and-mortar stores Online shopping
Higher education In-person instruction Remote instruction
AMC Movie theaters ???
Uber Human rides Food delivery

In each case, the new value model basically leverages new touch-free technologies to replace the group aspect of the pre-pandemic user experience.

Adapting to a “new future”

51V34u2LTEL._AC_SS350_In short, these companies are adapting to changes in their ecosystem. This is adaptive resilience — where instead of jumping back to where you were in the past, you jump ahead to something new. The obvious challenge is that, whereas the past is a good map for the past — when jumping ahead to something new, what does that likely “new future” look like?  In the absence of empirical precedent, companies improvise and scramble. Often relying on instinct and trial-and-error, they design new value models that will serve them going forward — even permanently (whatever that means.)

What is resilience?

I’ve become so excited about the promise of resilience that I’ve been reading a psychiatric textbook on the subject. Drs. Southwick and Charney define resilience in people as, “the ability to ’bounce back’ after encountering difficulty.” They present a great deal of empirical research — having interviewed victims of a range of physical and psychological traumas.

My purpose in studying their work is to see whether are lessons to be gleaned from individual personal experiences that can be applied to organizations. Since I believe that “Enterprise is fundamentally a human activity,” I’m inclined to believe there are several.

Resilience can be learned

My hunch is that enterprise resilience is (at least partly) a function of personal resilience of the members of that organization — and, in particular, its leaders. Though I’m in early stages of this research, one key insight I’ve gained is that resilience can be developed.

As the good doctors acknowledge, “When we began this project…we assumed that resilience was relatively rare, reserved for a select group of unique individuals. But we were wrong. Resilience is common…and can be enhanced through learning and training.” And thus it is also with group resilience.

The road ahead

As this incomparable year 2020 closes out, there is little consensus as to how fast vaccines can be deployed and administered worldwide — and even then, how fast various industries will recover. There is, on the other hand, wide agreement that things will not return to the way they were during any time within a reasonable planning horizon.

As Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell says, “We’re recovering to a different economy. The post-pandemic economy is going to be different in some fundamental respects.” He cites greater reliance on telework and the further acceleration of automation as examples. (CNN 11/12/20)  Even Pope Francis warns us that, ”We cannot return to the false securities of the political and economic systems we had before the crisis.” (New York Times 11/26/20)

We are in a unique moment, a chance (if not a mandate) to do things differently — and better. To do so, we must dedicate ourselves to seeing clearly, thinking creatively, and acting quickly and decisively.

Year-end 2020 will be significantly different from any in recent memory. May those things that matter most to you continue to do so — and may you enjoy a safe and peaceful holiday season.

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