Resilience Requires Adaptation

So, while fear of disruption may be perfectly natural, simply trying to inure oneself, one’s organization, or the whole sector from disruption ironically brings about more of what you seek to prevent. The true pursuit of resilience is to recognize the immutable systems laws at work and to welcome the disturbance. Therefore, the strongest posture is to take a both/and approach – pursing performance (technical) skills and adaptation skills.1 Dean Robb names the skills that an adaptive organization should seek to instill and nurture. They include:

  • Visioning
  • Diversity and individuality in generating a wide range of possible viewpoints, goals, perceptions, and behaviors
  • Exploration of environmental change and its implications for organizational focus, structure and potential diversification (external focus)
  • Creativity, experimentation, learning and inquiry
  • Emotional competency, intuition, “soul” work
  • Divergent thinking: opening up options; resisting early closure; tolerance of ambiguity
  • Focus on the system, its organizing principles, structures, values, assumptions
  • Self-reflection, humility (remaining “teachable”)

Our intentional practice, then, is learning to “dance with systems,” a phrase coined by Donnella Meadows. If we have the courage to relinquish our hold on the myth of control, we must acknowledge that we live constantly on the edge of uncertainty. We must embrace the value of performance skills and our pursuit of adaptive learning with equal vigor. We must inculcate, celebrate, and strengthen our adaptive capacity while fulfilling our core purpose if we are committed to authentic pursuit of resilience. This will happen only with intentional practice.


1 Robb, “Building Resilient Organizations,” p. 30.

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