For organizations and their leaders, the past year has been one of upheaval, intense challenges, and new opportunities. The word resilience has been on the tip of every leader’s tongue and the subject of many articles. The leadership of organizations that have been able to rapidly and repeatedly adapt or pivot as the world changed demonstrated that resiliency is the key to success.
Resilience is “one of the great puzzles of human nature,” as Diane Coutu reflects in her 2002 article in Harvard Business Review. How is it that some are crushed by seemingly impossible circumstances, while others rise to the occasion and thrive? As I have reflected on this question as our society begins to reach a post-pandemic equilibrium, there are two principles that stand out to me as key pieces to the resiliency puzzle.
Make the best use of available resources.
A key trait of resilient leaders is the ability to make the best use of available resources. In unprecedented situations, this requires an understanding of the resources as they have historically been utilized and a willingness to learn and accept new directions for resources.
The term bricolage is a helpful way to describe this concept. The root of the word means “to bounce back.” As defined in the Harvard Business Review article mentioned above, bricolage in the modern sense is “a kind of inventiveness, an ability to improvise a solution to a problem without proper or obvious tools or materials.” Leaders who are adept in this skill make the most of what they have, always tinkering with familiar assets and finding innovative uses for them.
Perhaps the most essential resource that leaders have had to re-imagine and re-purpose in this pandemic year has been the expertise and knowledge around their tables. Organizations that already had cultivated a culture of empowering their staff to explore new ideas and expand their skill set thrived during the COVID-19 crisis as employees took on new roles and came up with new solutions for the problems they needed to solve.