Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Jonathan Dugan - Resilience: Patterns for thriving in an uncertain world

I keep telling anyone who will listen that resilience is the next "big thing" in psychology and health studies. This brief article presents a few elements toward how we can conceive of resilience in systems, which can be organizations as well as individuals.

This comes from the P2P Foundation.

Resilience: Patterns for thriving in an uncertain world

photo of chris pinchen
chris pinchen
17th April 2010

by Jonathan Dugan

On Saturday, April 10, 2010, a host of about 100 people held an open space conference on the idea of “Resilience”. The event was organized by Neal Gorenflo and, and held at the Hub Bay Area, a shared workspace in Berkley, CA.

While open space meetings have a unique positive energy – in this case, the meeting combined open space with a group of socially conscious, share-friendly entrepreneurs and industry leaders to create a truly memorable event.

Resilience is a characteristic of organizations and systems. Primarily, resilience describes the ability to continue to produce and provide value over time, even when faced with various challenges and problems. While the idea is closely related to “success” and to “longevity” – these each are both part of resilient systems, necessary factors but not sufficient. Systems or organization can be successful or last a long time without being resilient: take any spectacular major system failure as an example: success up until the moment of failure.

While a complete discussion of resilience is long and complex, several key principles to resilient systems repeatedly emerge. These principles are not binary, nor are they each requisite – but rather they are like tunable factors or patterns that commonly emerge in different situations that contribute to resilience over time:
Redundancy: several different ways or different people that can solve common issues that arise. Using redundant resources is only one of many tools for problem solving, and has to be balanced against efficiency and specialization; too much redundancy can increase resilience, but harm long-term success.

Resourcefulness: Systems and groups can be much more resilient with increased ability to change on the fly to solve different issues in novel and unplanned ways.

Modularity: Replaceable and interchangeable parts that create value in different ways increases resilience.

Value Creation Diversity: Resilience is increased with multiple different elements in the system that work in different ways, and have different degrees of susceptibility to various possible future problems.

Complexity: Resilience requires an appropriate degree of complexity in the solutions or systems to maintain over time. Too complex can mean dramatic inefficiency and lowered resilience; not complex enough can reduce possible solutions and resourcefulness in the face of future unknown problems.

Shared Meaning/Purpose/Story: All the people in a system, or the elements in a physical situation are designed or aligned toward an explicit, shared understanding of value creation or success.

Risk Analysis: Resilient systems in some way have an understanding of the future issues or problems that may arise, and actively apply and tune the other patterns to mitigate possible risks.

Efficiency: Typically resilient systems have a high degree of efficiency and use minimal resources to accomplish value creation. Extra resources are hen available to plan and prepare for future problems.
This list is not exhaustive, nor does it fully cover the elements required for what makes a system or an organization resilient. However, this set of patterns and ideas is a good starting point for thinking about how to keep systems working in the face of unknown future problems.

Related Links on Resilience:

Event description is here:

A Very Short Primer on Resilience is here

Livestream of the event is here

Design 4 Resilience Event Notes:

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