Why You Need a Resilience Strategy Now

by Andrew Winston  |   8:00 AM May 9, 2014
Article from http://blogs.hbr.org/

This past winter was a rough one for big swaths of the United States, with both unusual cold snaps and disruptive snowstorms. General Mills’ CEO recently blamed the winter for less-than-expected earnings, saying that “severe winter weatherdisrupted plant operations and logisticsWe lost 62 days of productionwhich hasn’t happened in decades. That would be the result of people not being able to get into work safely or not having inputs arrive.”

It wasn’t just one company, though; the whole economy was slowed by the extremes and volatility we faced.

The disruption to operations and supply chains is real and costly, and all signs point to increasing threats as weather gets more volatile, driven in large part by climate change. The science is getting clearer that we’ll see more extreme hurricanes, droughts, floods, and even snowstorms – more moisture in the atmosphere means bigger downfalls of all kinds.

The latest report to confirm these issues are not some theoretical model to debate, but reality today, came on Tuesday from the quadrennial U.S. National Climate Assessment. The 840-page tome did not bury the lede and declared in the first sentence, “Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present.”

Of course, all weather isn’t necessarily tied directly to climate change – like with the recent tornadoes that swept through the American Midwest – but no matter what you believe the cause, extreme weather will play an increasing role in our lives and economies. Nobody can predict exactly what might go wrong, but we can say with near 100% confidence that something will.

So let’s consider what a company can do in a world that’s volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous – that’s “VUCA” for short, a military term that’s been adopted by business. Here’s a review of the five core components of resilient systems, which I pulled together for my new book, The Big Pivot, based in part on two other important works: Nassim Taleb’s Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder and Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back, by Andrew Zolli and Ann Marie Healy.

1. Diversity. A company is clearly more at risk if it has just one major product, service, technology, key supplier, or other core element. In the 2011 Thailand floods, both hard drive makers and auto giants realized that having a sole key component made in one place made for a fragile system (Toyota took a $1.5 billion hit to earnings). While companies don’t often share the details of their supply chain strategy publicly, you can bet these companies have built more diverse options for sourcing key inputs.

2. Redundancy and buffers. Taleb uses the natural world as a model for this principle: “Layers of redundancy are the central risk management property of natural systems,” he writes, pointing out how many of our biological systems have doubles (like lungs) or backups. Our business systems need leeway for extremes as well. A few days ago, for example, the Obama Administration announced a plan to stockpile a million barrels of gasoline in the northeast specifically to avoid the shortages that plagued New England after Hurricane Sandy.

This is all smart strategy, but the challenge for business specifically is that companies don’t like keeping two of anything – that’s not lean or (seemingly) efficient. It’s a fine line for sure, but having multiple pathways to get key inputs, for example, might have saved General Mills –  and the hard drive and car companies –  lots of money. It might have actually generated increased revenue as well, if it meant operating while competitors couldn’t. As Taleb says, “redundancy seems like a waste if nothing unusual happens. Except that something unusual happens – usually.”

3. A love/hate relationship with risk. It’s a paradoxical idea, but one way to build resilience, or antifragility, is to keep the vast majority of the business as safe as possible, but then take big risks – ones that may pay off 10-fold or more – with a smaller part of the business.

Think of the famous idea from Clayton Christensen of trying to disrupt or cannibalize your own business before someone else does. Imagine setting up a skunk works to identify major risks to the business stemming from resource constraints or climate change – and then lean into those risks and come up with products and services that avoid them and challenge the core business (for example, a car company investing in car sharing programs which consumers use to save money, but also reduce material and energy use dramatically).

4. Fast feedback and failure. If you’re going to take some risks to, ironically, make us less risky, you need to drop what isn’t working quickly. To be more responsive, companies need better data on resource use and climate risks up and down the value chain. So invest in capturing information and building real-time systems.

5. Modular and distributed design. If some part of a system fails, it would be great if it didn’t bring down the rest of it. A tree branch hit a power line in Ohio in August 2003, causing cascading failures across a highly connected U.S. grid, and 50 million people in the northeast lost power (including me, my wife, and our 11 day-old child in Connecticut – we were not in a resilient mood).

These principles alone may not make for resilience in a hotter, scarcer, more open world, but they go a long way. And they point toward one key pathway for managing – and even thriving – in a VUCA world: renewables.

Companies (and homes) that generate their own onsite energy will be able to literally weather storms better than competitors. Not all the technologies we need to do this well are in place – like building-scale energy storage at a reasonable cost – but we’re getting there. And during the day, companies with their own solar panels can operate after the storm has passed, even if the grid is down.

Nobody can prepare for every possible outcome. Randomness, of course, is a prime element of our new business reality. But we can build systems that are better prepared than they are now. And, sure, it’s a challenge to value resilience: How much is your business damaged by a breakdown in your supply chain, or a threat to your ability to operate? How much will it cost all of us if we let the drivers of deep volatility, like climate change, go unchecked?

It’s not easy to say, but let’s avoid finding out.

Andrew Winston  |   8:00 AM May 9, 2014
Article from http://blogs.hbr.org/

Strength, Resilience and Selflessness: A Mother's Love is Universal

Haroon Mokhtarzada Become a fan
Co-creator and CEO, Webs.com
Posted from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/haroon-mokhtarzada/
03/10/2014 9:00 am EDT Updated: 03/10/2014 2:59 pm EDT

This post is part of the Global Moms Relay. Every time you share this post, Johnson & Johnson will donate $1 (per action) to help improve the health and well-being of moms and kids worldwide through MAMA, Shot@Life, and Girl Up. Scroll to the bottom to find out more.

Three years after the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, my parents decided we needed to leave the country. It would look suspicious for our entire family to leave together, so my mother, pregnant, and with three young children in tow, had to get us out by herself. After that complete reset on life, we settled in the Washington, D.C. area where my mother worked tirelessly to ensure we were well-educated and equipped to take advantage of life's opportunities.

As I think about my childhood, the single theme that comes back over and over again is how my mother sacrificed whatever she could to carve out the best possible life for her children. From advocating for us within the school system, to working an extra job to pay for my piano lessons, my mother was devoted to helping her children succeed. Her life was not about her, it was about us.

I met Annet Samaya during a recent United Nations Foundation learning trip to Uganda. Annet lives on Bussi Island in the Lake Victoria Basin, one of the most vulnerable regions in Uganda. Like other families on Bussi, Annet's family relies on the land and had been living in very difficult conditions. With assistance and training from the Hope Project, Annet had learned sustainable agricultural practices and developed her land to such a point that it now yields more than enough to support her family. When I asked how she spends her surplus she replied that she sends her two oldest children to a good boarding school so that they may have more opportunities in the future.

Given the chance, Annet chose to invest in her children and pay it forward to the next generation. This maternal instinct appears to be universal. Across the globe we find mothers who spend what they have to invest in their children's futures. It's for this reason that the United Nations is so focused on empowering women and girls, not as a class of vulnerable people who need help, but because they form the core of many sustainable solutions to world's most pressing issues.

Meeting Annet was a humble reminder of my own mother's sacrifices for me and my siblings. Strength, resilience and selflessness. These are the traits that I have come to associate with mothers who spend their lives giving of themselves for the next generation. So today I'm privileged to celebrate the more than 2 billion mothers around the world, and I'm proud to honor the mothers in my life -- from my selfless wife who is an amazing mother to our three beautiful little girls, to my own mother without whom I would be nothing of what I am today.

Haroon Mokhtarzada Become a fan
Co-creator and CEO, Webs.com
Posted from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/haroon-mokhtarzada/
03/10/2014 9:00 am EDT Updated: 03/10/2014 2:59 pm EDT

The resilience of optimism

By Kevin Cullen
Globe staff   April 15, 2014
Posted from http://www.bostonglobe.com/

For the last few weeks, as this terrible anniversary approached, I was alternately haunted and comforted by two strikingly different images, and they played like videos in my brain, just before sleep, complete with deafening sound and visceral smell.

In one of them, the bombs go off and a pair of firefighters from Engine 33 and Ladder 15, Frankie Flynn and Mike Kennedy, bolt from the firehouse, like sprinters out of the starting blocks, and they are running, chugging, side by side, down Boylston Street.

They come upon people lying on the sidewalk outside the Forum.

Lingzi Lu, a student from China who loved everything about Boston, is lying there, dead. Eight-year-old Martin Richard from Dorchester is lying there, dead. His little sister Jane is sitting on the sidewalk, stunned, her hair singed, looking down at where her left leg used to be. Their mother Denise has blood seeping from her eye, their father Bill’s legs are shredded by shrapnel, their brother Henry’s soul is shredded by loss. Severed limbs lay scattered. Rivulets of blood meander into the cracks on the sidewalk.

As smoke lifts and eerie silence gives way to moans of pain and cries of anguish, Frankie Flynn and Mike Kennedy and a score of other firefighters, police officers, EMTs, and passersby go to work, tying off gushing legs, reassuring the wounded, saving lives.

Today, as we mark an anniversary neither of them looked forward to, Frankie Flynn and Mike Kennedy are dead. Frankie, lost to cancer, dead 30 days after his diagnosis. Mike, lost to duty with his lieutenant, Eddie Walsh, dead in a fire on Beacon Street last month, just a few blocks from where two bombs exploded on Patriots Day and changed everything.

And just when that image begins to consume me, when my eyes burn in the dark, the other image appears. It is Jane Richard. She is smiling, leaning on her crutches. She is wearing a purple Under Armour shirt and shorts, and she has just been fitted with her Cheetah leg, her prosthesis, and then Jane Richard is step dancing to an Irish reel again, and in that moment the dark gives way to the light.

We have been in commemoration mode for weeks now, and there’s still another week to go until the Marathon, and I still can’t figure out if this is good, bad, or just plain necessary.

Is it too much? Too little? Is there a right way to recognize a terrible wound, a wound that is as psychic as physical?

To get some perspective, I asked an outsider, someone trained in trauma, about what happened to us over the last 365 days. His name is Dr. Michael Barnes, and he is the clinical program director at the Center for Dependency, Addiction, and Rehabilitation (CeDAR) at the Anschutz Medical Campus at the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora, Colo.

After a former student opened fire in a crowded movie theater in Aurora two years ago, killing 12 people, it was Barnes who went to explain what had happened to students at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, some of whom knew the shooter.

Barnes said that, like the cinema shooting, the Marathon bombings produced several different kinds of trauma. Those wounded suffered primary trauma. The loved ones of those killed and wounded suffered secondary trauma, as did the first responders. The wider community, the rest of us, experienced a trauma called compassion fatigue, overwhelmed by the images and stories we have all seen and heard.

“When we’re being traumatized, the part of our brain that truly remembers goes to sleep,” Barnes explained. “It’s sensory information that triggers memory — smell, taste.”

And sight.

Barnes said Boston is experiencing cyclical trauma this week.

“I call it CNN syndrome,” he said. “There’s a repetition of video, of images.”

Many first responders were willing to seek help. Dan Linskey, superintendent in chief of the Boston Police Department when the bombings took place, went around the city, hugging his officers and, in some cases, ordering them to see a counselor.

But there was a different kind of therapy taking place, and we weren’t even aware. The compassion with which the wider community responded — from ordinary civilians like Rob Wheeler, a college kid who peeled the shirt off his back to save the life of a man bleeding out on the sidewalk, to the massive fund-raising to take care of survivors — is why the dark images are giving way to light. Reading or hearing about selfless acts by kids who raised money with lemonade stands or those running to help the bombing survivors and other charities is literally making us better.

“Optimism,” Barnes said, “is at the center of resilience.”

And so we feed off the survivors, witnessing their inexorable path toward normalcy. We rejoice when Adrianne Haslet-Davis dances on stage, when Paul Norden gets engaged, when Jane Richard gets her Cheetah leg.

“Resilience is about connectedness,” Barnes said.

Whether we realize it or not, we are connected to those so badly hurt last year, to those who helped and are helping them, and it is seeing them get back to what they love and who they love that has healed so many.

And so, to answer the question, all these stories about survivors and people running to honor Martin Richard and Lingzi Lu and Krystle Campbell and Sean Collier, it isn’t too much. It is part of the healing process. It is part of the normalization process.

It’s normal. We’re getting back to normal.

Last week, two priests named Sean Connor and John Unni stood on a back porch in West Quincy, talking to a pair of young Marines.

Father Sean is the priest who comforted the Richard family after the bombings. Father John is the priest who comforted the families of Mike Kennedy and Eddie Walsh at their funerals.

On this day, the two priests blessed Sean Finn and Dan Keeler Jr., who are shipping out to Afghanistan, to do a job not enough people in this country appreciate.

It is just coincidence, or maybe it isn’t, that those young Marines are the sons of men who keep the city safe every day. Keeler’s father, a Boston police sergeant detective, saved untold lives last year on Patriots Day, keeping the ring road open so the ambulances could ferry the wounded to the hospitals. Finn’s father is a deputy fire chief, one of the best firefighters in the city. He saved untold lives a few weeks ago when he ordered everyone out of that burning building on Beacon Street.

After Father Sean and Father John blessed the two young Marines, praying that they will be safe in the year they spend in one of the most dangerous corners of the world, they said their goodbyes to the Finn and Keeler families.

Sue Finn, the young Marine’s mother, has a tradition that any guest invited into her house must dance in her kitchen before he or she leaves. It is a reminder that life is too short, too priceless, to not dance, to not express joy, and with Sue Finn there are no exceptions. Not even for priests. So Father Sean and Father John dutifully obeyed, dancing a jig that would have made an Irish step dancer named Jane Richard smile.

And so on this day, when we pause to remember the boom and the smoke and the screams on Boylston Street, we also should, like Sue Finn, like Jane Richard, like Father Sean and Father John, remember that life is too precious and too short not to dance.

Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at cullen@globe.com.