What Does "Resilience" Mean, And Can I Really Do Anything About It?

October 8, 2021 | Responding to the Storm: How Iowa Utilities Reacted to the Derecho Mike O'Donnell, Associate Director, Iowa State University CIRAS,

Iowa businesses have been inundated by disruptions for the past several years. COVID-19, natural disasters, and the associated shocks to the global supply chain continue to threaten your success. The term resilience is regularly used as part of the path forward.

Resilience is the ability of a business to capitalize on positive opportunities and/or bounce back from negative events caused by sudden change. If you are in business today, you are resilient. What really matters is not checking that box, but continually building your ability to be more responsive to change. Many of the things you do on a daily basis are the foundation of a resilient business: sound processes, diversified customers and suppliers, cross-training and more.

To further build resilience, create a culture focused on being ready for change. Some annual activities might include:

Identify a backup outside source for a key internal process.

Attend a conference in an industry outside of your current markets.

Conduct a table-top scenario planning exercise to determine actions for a potential “black swan” event.

Participate in training programs to develop skills outside of traditional job duties.

It is impossible to plan for all the potential opportunities and risks that face your business. Instead, focus on building the skills and culture in your business to create flexible processes, recognize change quickly, and adjust the business in response.