The blog has suffered a period of collapse over the past month. Energy has been released on other endeavours (such as my presentation for DRJ Spring World), and so there have been no new posts.
When I publish again, like today – is this the “bounce back” or even the “bounce forward” that we too often tag as an example of resilience? There have been periods of low (or nil) productivity in the past, and each time I have resumed transmission at some point.
Are these examples of my blogging resilience – or is there another potential explanation?
In the world of business and organisations we like things to be predictable, uncertainty is often considered a bad thing. So we have a natural tendency to project order and systemic models onto random and emergent practices.
There is actually no predictive order, we just assume it be so because it makes us feel better. What if our attempts to invent ‘resilience management systems’ and ‘business resilience’ are examples of the same fabrication?
Last week the people of Christchurch (New Zealand) remembered the first anniversary of the earthquake that devastated the city. The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority was established to oversee the recovery – and has had to broker the various desires to ‘bounce back’ by rebuilding what was there before (in the same places) and the ‘bounce forward’ alternative city plans. How far can we really go with planning such a recovery – and how much of the new will emerge from the interactions of the players?
At the same time I read a post on the CARRI blog about the current state of recovery in New Orleans following Katrina. New Orleans certainly does not seem to have bounced back – higher per capita incomes, lower per capita numbers living in poverty – while this number has gone up nationally. This seems like a bounce to a better place. It was suggested that this was not the outcome that was planned – but perhaps nature providing a lesson.
“are we seeing the slow recovery of a non-resilient New Orleans, or a panarchic reorganization of the city into something better than before?”
The concept of Panarchy (in this context) was proposed by Holling and Gunderson and there is an explanation here. It is essentially an application of what occurs in nature – following a period (or phase) of collapse there comes a period of re-organisation or renewal. The renewal is the process that establishes the platform for a later phase of exploitation. This time of renewal is the window for innovation – not for adherence to a planned process defined in a totally different context and situation.
The concept of panarchy recognises that different aspects of the environment and different players are operating at different phases of the cycle, and that an entity can move between cycles moving at different speeds. What it cannot do is provide a predictive and ordered model.
When I resume writing after a stoppage, it is with some renewed enthusiasm but I cannot predict or plan when that occurs. It is a natural phenomenon and will emerge at the appropriate moment.
No matter how many procedures or plans we write, we cannot establish systems that deliver resilience as, and when, required – not “operational resilience” nor “business resilience”.
We need to study and nurture the environment in which resilience grows and emerges – then we may learn how to harvest at our time of need.
When we limit ourselves to re-building the old structures on the same shaky foundations, then we miss the opportunity that can come with adversity.
We are also missing the point about where resilience differs significantly from the thinking and practice of risk and business continuity.