The dictionary defines ‘resilience’ as:
1. the power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity.
2. ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy.
While the two definitions lend explanation to the term, the context to which the term is applied can change it.
When we think of the term resilient in business, we use it to describe our businesses readiness and how it reacts to situations and changes to environment.
- What will happen if we lack a resource needed to build our product?
- What if our servers go down? How will our customers be affected?
- If our data gets corrupted, what will we do?
From a business standpoint, building resilient systems is not just important, it’s necessary. Resilient systems can prevent and avoid critical situations where in a business and process could be affected negatively and fail.
By using data and projection models, resilient systems become a ‘fail safe’ by allowing a business to adapt to shifting environments. Unlike the earlier definitions which mention the ‘return to the original form,’ this is not the main goal of resilient systems. It’s true that resilient systems may return an environment back to it’s original state, but what they are intended to do is allow for reconfiguration to the changing circumstances, while allowing the processes and systems to continue as usual.
An example of building a resilient system is to consider the following situation:
Company A manufacturers shoes in South America and sells them internationally.
One of the resources that is used in the production of the shoe’s soles is rubber which is sourced at a nearby plant.
After studying and mapping out projections for long-term consumption as well as demand, Company A determines that at the current rate, rubber will increase in costs by 25% over the next 5 years, not including the affect that competitors will have on the cost.
Company A has two options here:
 Continue to manufacturing at the current rate – In 10 years, it is projected that Company A will need to raise prices on their shoes by 12% to cover overall production costs
 Prepare ‘backups’ for projected increase in resource costs
Going with option 2, Company A has begun changing the way their shoes soles are made by diversifying the materials that go into making the soles. With a new process that is not reliant on rubber solely, Company A has created a resilient system in that production can continue as usual even if the cost of rubber grows in the future.
Have you consider how your business will react to both small and big climate changes?
The Ugly Truth
While in the example provided, Company A has now constructed a resilient system to accommodate changes in cost and consumption, the ugly truth is that there is no such thing as a perfect system. No matter the number of preventative measures, countless projections models and initiatives to isolate and mitigate damage, systems will and can be broken.
Still, this is not always a bad thing. Natural forest fires are an example of this.
While no one’s best friend, forest fires create new life amongst the damage it leaves behind. In a way, this intrusion of a resilient system allows for the reorganization of resources as is what a natural forest fire does.
Andrew Zolli and Ann Marie Healy, said it best:
Resilience is, like life itself, messy, imperfect and inefficient. But it survives.
When the environment that surrounds your business takes an turn in the wrong direction, will your business survive?