How do you make sure you are resilient against something you can’t predict, like a “Black Swan” event?

"If you can change your mindset so that you are comfortable with uncertainty, then you can weather anything."

 

Dr Sandra Bell, CEO and Founder of the Business Resilience Company, talks to Jeremy Swinfen Green about resilient teams, resilient operations and resilient organisations.

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Video transcript

You've been talking, though, about risks that are predictable, things like the pandemic. Everybody knew something like that could come along one day and it did. But how about those black swan events? How do you make sure that you are resilient to something you can't predict? Or can you not do that?

I think the trick that people fall into is thinking that they can predict everything. And feeling really uncomfortable with uncertainty. So if you can change your mindset so that you are comfortable with uncertainty then you can pretty much weather anything. And you need three things. So that's what we call organisational resilience. So if you think about resilience in an organisation, you can have resilient people.

So those are people who can sort of weather shocks, can understand, can come back. Then you've got resilient teams who self support each other through whatever's happening. You've got resilient operations so you can carry on creating the products and services that you did. And then on top of that, you've got a resilient organisation.

So the organisation as a whole can carry on having competitive advantage, growth, profit, regardless of what's happening. And to do that you need three things. You need a leadership, as I say, who is comfortable with uncertainty, who is comfortable with making strategic decisions under time constraints without very much information.

Then you need an agile organisation. So you need it to be robust enough to be able to handle those things that you can plan for and you can see and you want to mitigate, but you don't need it so robust that it can't move. So it's absolutely completely rigid. You want it to be able to flex and change. And again, that's a cultural mindset you need in place.

And then finally, you need a supportive network. And that's moving away, for example, and having your suppliers on arm's length and managing within an inch of their life and making sure that they have penalties if they don't supply. That's actually having a much more collegiate type relationship with them. And so it's symbiotic. So if they form, another one can come in place.

So if you think about COVID-19, again, as I say, it's something that everyone should have known, but for some people it came out of the blue. They were completely sort of blindsided by this. A lot of people didn't have those relationships with their suppliers.

And the minute it happened, then the suppliers became-- had much more power than they had previously. And so people could pick and choose who they supplied with. So if you haven't got those relationships, then you could be in big trouble.