What is resilience and why is it so important nowadays?
Resilience is the ability of an individual, community, system to intervene in situation of stress, trying to cope with such a situation by responding actively with proper actions, developing new behaviors, using formal and informal networks to absorb the shock.
Darwin said that the species which survive are not the strongest neither the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.
It seems, hence, that responsiveness and adaptation are the most important abilities and that resilience is a very important ingredient.
Wikipedia defines a system as a set of things, working together, as parts of a mechanism or an interconnecting network: a complex whole.
System science defines resilience as the system’s ability to withstand perturbations, without losing its equilibrium state.
When a system is resilient?
A resilient system has a modular internal structure, which allows to a quick and smart reconfiguration in case of need, thanks to its small, internal pieces. Taking for example the Lego construction, there is a finite number of main building blocks, which can be assembled and disassembled easily to crate new buldings, veichles, etc.
Another important factor of resilient systems is that their constituent internal modules should be simple and auto-consistent within its core. Each one with common traits, but somehow specialized in terms of behaviors, with different kind of interfaces but being able to connect the world outside in a simple manner.
Coming back again to Lego, every piece has its own nature: single or double size, different lenght, colors, shapes, but everyone has clear mechanisms and joints (interfaces) which allows the player to combine them in new bigger pieces which, in turn, can combined with other items.
Additionally, it seems that Redudancy is an important characteristic as well, because having on board different parts with similar attributes, helps to substitute quickly any “broken” peers.
This kind of systems communicate both internally and externally continually.
From the outside it senses and receives signals thanks to its probes and sensors.
Internally, the many constituent parts are influenced and influence the behavior of the other parts, by exchanging messages, giving positive and negative reinforcement, feedback.
One common factor is that these systems are able to gather and process multiple, huge data.
Another important trait is that, in case of problems or urgent necessity of a part, the peers around should be able to reconfigure themselves in order to support, supply or substitute the former.
This implies a degree of redudancy within the fragile connections and the capacity to decouple quickly from any connection.
Resiliency can be understood and developed only by keeping an olistic and fractal vision: the system, which is in turn part of a bigger system, is made-up of sub-systems, components, single parts, which have their nature, characteristics and behaviors.
If this vision is forgotten, the risk is to create fragile system which are not really integrated in the environment and, therefore, more subject to failure under strong pressure or perturbations.
Said that, being able to have an olistic vision means also that, between the many constituent parts, there’s transparency: anything is clear, visible, in terms of objectives, rules, data, behaviors, communications.
Every part, sub-system, system, must be thought as a long-lived, self-organized, intelligent entity, where diversity and redundancy are paramount to survival and evolution.
Resilience in Human Beings
The human being is a complex adaptive systems (CAS).
An entity consisting of many diverse and autonomous components which are interrelated, interdependent, connected through several interconnections, and behave as a unified whole, continuosly learning and experiencing the world, reacting and adjusting to changes in the environment.
Resilience can be considered the glue, the constituent element for those components, which gives the capacity to the entire system to adapt, mitigate, evolve.
When human beings join and work together towards a common goal, they form a new, bigger complex adaptive systems, called teams.
Build successfull teams is hard work.
Every part of the team system, each member, is a complex system itself and need to collaborate with others to find solutions, to reach the goals.
When facing complexity these teams must work in a safe environment, a place where is possible to fail, where experimenting is normal and the best, fast way to learn, is to fail. The mantra for these teams is: “Fail fast, fail often“.
Trust is mandatory, otherwise no cooperation will happen.
But, what makes a team a resilient one?
A resilient team accepts changes, adapts its behaviors even in case of crisis, self-organizing to find solutions.
One important aspect is its capacity to develop redundant professional skills around the weak points.
Let’s say for example that the team has two junior analysts and a senior one, these teams perform several pairing sessions between them to leverage the knowledge of the analysts.
Yet another example, let’s say we have just one tester that is completely overwhelmed by the many testing activities, the other members help learning how to test, how to automate testing, in order to ease the bottleneck.
Diversity is another important factor. Diversity in professional attitudes, gender, race, age.
To react quickly in case of urgencies, asks for a strong capacity to storm around problems, find solutions, alternatives.
Lateral thinking is an important aspect of these teams and diversity seems to be a aignificant attribute.
These teams are also able to activate and navigate informal networks to have answers, solve problems, grow their experience.
But, finally, there’s no great teams without great leaders.
A great leader is someone who is passionate about human beings, who primarily develops people, then processes and things.
A person who has the capacity to modulate her styles of communicating and leading, to decentralize part of her control to teams, giving them space to be creative and solve problems.
These leaders are resilient persons. They are connectors, create communities, are moderators, facilitators, social engineers.
They know the importance of self-organization, redundancy, diversity, crativity, and the fact that these characteristics are expensive to develop and maintain, but is the only approach to thrive, sometimes to survive in the complexity land.
They are attentive to behavioral patterns, are transparent, francs, assertive, good at negotiating. They are generous, but able to commit and focus themselves to challenging objectives, able to find trade offs.
These people tend to avoid any form of complacency and remain present to themselves, probing and sensing the environment where they live, to understand what is changing and, iteratively, improving existing skills and develop new ones.
A never ending transformational process .