Resilience – Differing Definitions

re·sil·ience /rəˈzilyəns/

1. the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
“the often remarkable resilience of so many British institutions”

2. the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.
“nylon is excellent in wearability and resilience”

Oxford English Dictionary via Google Chrome 2019

Resilience will be the scarce resource.

Said during a personal discussion with Robb Smith, Integral Life. He has repeated this in multiple interviews.

Robb Smith defined “resilience” as personal resilience.

Yet, in the business literature, the discussion of “resilience” emphasizes organizational resilience. Not in terms of the people, but in terms of “making sure the business survives.” The issue is couched in terms of protecting information, making sure the business can operate after a cyber (or other) attack, and leveraging AI so that you are not so dependent upon people.

This was my impression after reading the Price Waterhouse Cooper – 22nd Annual CEO Survey.

The CEOs didn’t seem to be focused on the resilience of the humans who (currently) are the organization. They were focused on the resilience of the entity that is “the corporation.” Making sure the “corporation” continues to make money for its shareholder (and themselves).

Despite the Business Roundtable’s redefinition of the purpose of the corporation away from shareholder primacy, I think it’s going to be a slow evolution – because paradigms change one “funeral” at a time.

In the meantime, how should we respond?

I’ll admit – I’m not crazy about the “Millenials are…” meme. It disregards the natural adaptability of people within other generations outside of those born in the 80s and 90s and discounts the challenges that cohort has to face that many of us didn’t (such as crushing student loan debt and formative years spent with cell phones and social media).

Where I think many members of that generation have it right is in the assumption that the “corporation will not be loyal.”

They want work that is directly in line with their own career equity, which are the skills and experiences that help them improve their career prospects. They know their time is limited, so they don’t invest in doing things outside their own path. Boomers, however, are used to working hard for a company in exchange for long-term investment in skills development and for security, like a retirement fund or pension.

Mark Lurie – The Disconnect Between Millenials and Baby Boomers When It Comes to Work Ethic

They have watched their parents (Baby Boomers and Gen Xers) get burned by the assumption that “the company cares.” And many of us in older generations are moving towards that same attitude – searching for environments where we can continue to build career equity, learn new skills, collaborate in positive and supportive teams, and work on projects that match our values and serve a higher purpose.

That contract – employee loyalty for corporate security – was torn up long ago -starting in the 1970s as the “shareholder primacy” theory became popular and solidified when the Business Roundtable flatly stated that the purpose of the organization was to serve shareholders (1997 version).

I think it is in our individual and collective best interest to consider personal resilience.

What can each of us, individually, do to build greater personal resilience?

I think the answer is individual to each of us.

For myself, it’s giving myself more space to think – away from the noise of our world. It’s finding areas of the day to pause and reflect. It’s being discerning about the information and the opportunities that are presented to me and being more mindful about what I commit to.

Simple, not easy.

I think that those who follow the “Millenial way” have it right when it comes to working within today’s environment. At least until we see more evidence that the members of the Business Roundtable and the CEOs and boards that they serve are serious about their new commitment.

Emergent Learning

As part of the conversation around agility, innovation, and transformation – I hear more discussion around adult learning and how to create a “learning organization.”

Unfortunately, the term “learning,” for many people, triggers thoughts of classrooms and teachers.

“Learning” is seen as separate and apart from what we normally do.

It isn’t.

We are learning all of the time. Mostly unconsciously.

We are learning what is acceptable and not acceptable in our environment.

We are learning what is rewarded and what is punished.

We are learning whether our adaptations to that environment are providing the desired results.

And, yes, occasionally we spend time in the classroom or in apprenticeship trying to (or being strongly encouraged to) “learn something new.”

What if we thought about learning as a constant and talked about ways to be more mindful around what we are learning and want to learn?

What if we considered “learning” as embedded within the environment?

What if we consciously thought about what we want the people within our domain of influence to learn about us and about the environment we are in?

What if we provided the means and the environment to encourage this education within the day-to-day?

  • Will you provide time for reflection?
  • Is it safe for them to have a generative conversation with you? Are you open to diversity of thought?
  • How stable is your personal foundation? (Uncertainty and Ambiguity)
  • Do you personally have a functional framework for sensing and sensemaking? Can you share that with others? Can you integrate their framework – or help them find their own?
  • Is the journey that you are on leading you to where you want to go? Are you leading others on a journey to where THEY want to go?

Each of us learn from others and our environment constantly.

Instead of thinking about “learning” as something you do on the side – consider it part of your moment-to-moment existence.

That shift is a game-changer.


Six Enablers of Emergent Learning (article) – A discussion of Emergent Learning vs. Continuous Learning vs. Intended Learning. I believe there is a place for all of it.

An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization (Amazon affiliate link) – Robert Kegan and Lisa Lachey’s research applied to organizational design.

Association for Talent Development (site/blog) – The primary US association for corporate trainers and talent development professionals.

Why Stability is Important

In the discussions around “digital transformation” and “innovation” and “agility” and our “VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) world” – we forget that safety and security is a significant human need.

Instead, the discussion centers around how we all need to be more innovative, agile, flexible, and better able to cope with chaos.

I think we are missing the mark.

I also think that we can’t currently rely on organizations, of any sort, to provide any sort of stability.

They are too busy being “digitally transformed,” “disrupted,” “agile,” “innovative,” etc.

The only place we can establish stability is in our individual centers.

The best gift we can give is to help each other develop their individual centers.

Stability can be found within our selves and through the development of healthy relationships.

From there, we can pivot and flex to adapt to environmental demands.

We can also mindfully choose which demands we intend to address.

“Stability” has gotten a bad rap of late. And I would agree that leaning too far in that direction is not helpful.

However, we may have swung the conversation, and our actions, too far in the other direction.

We have a much better chance of being agile, innovative, and flexible if we have a solid platform to work from.


HBR: If You Want Engaged Employees – Offer Them Stability (freemium article) – Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Organizational Development specialist. She argues that providing employees with a sense of stability will improve performance and culture.

Human Capital Institute: How Leaders Can Manage Organizational Stability to Inspire Loyalty (article) – This article includes some interesting questions around the ROI for the employee and being clear on whether loyalty is an important value for your company – or not.

Forbes: What It Means to Have a Culture of Stability – A more traditional perspective on “stability” and its benefits and hazards.

The Step Before the System

Perks are great, but they are detached from the day-to-day.

Often, perks are a way to “shield” managers and executives from the sticky task of creating a healthy, humane, and sustainable day-to-day environment.

“We have a wellness program, what’s your problem?”

What if you have me on so many disparate projects that I don’t have time for your “wellness” program?

There is a need for a deeper conversation about work, what an organization is and its role in our world, how we decide what activities to pursue, and the relationship between customer, employee, and organization.

We have wellness programs – yet the disengagement, burnout, anxiety, and depression statistics are frightening.

We have wellness programs – yet only 1/5 – 2/5 of employees use them, even with incentives and punishments.

I’m not saying that wellness programs are bad. Not at all.

They are a tool in the toolkit and evidence that the organization is at least thinking about the importance of employee health and its importance in achieving organizational goals.

I am just asking for a deeper conversation.

One where we stop talking about workplace wellness as something separate and apart from the work itself.

Much of our issue with workplace wellness is, in my opinion, an issue of prioritization and trying to do too much at once.

Much of our issue with workplace wellness is, in many people’s opinion (most notably Gallup), an issue of management and leadership (or lack thereof).

The wellness programs are helpful.

But if your employees have no time to use your wellness program resources, or, even if they ARE able to use those resources, they work in an environment that doesn’t reinforce their attempts at self-care, the wellness program becomes a shiny, expensive pink elephant.


Harvard Business Review – What Wellness Programs Don’t Do for Workers (Article). This article got me thinking further about the workplace and why working conditions for knowledge workers seem to be deteriorating even though we have tons of research and writing about employee engagement, employee health, and the importance of both for creativity and innovation.

World Health Organization – Stress at Work (Article). When workplace stress and burnout catches the attention of the World Health Organization, you know it’s bad.

Personal Observations on Burnout (Blog Posts) – As you know, this is a topic near and dear to my heart. We can do better.

What Are You Amplifying?

What are you amplifying?

All that is “wrong” with the world?

All that is “right”?

All that you want?

All that you don’t?

Oneness or separation?

Love or hatred?

Joy or sorrow?

It’s become clear, to me at least, that it’s time to become mindful and careful about what we are amplifying.

We have been seeing it in the conversations around Facebook, “fake news” and “deep fakes.”

We see it in our Amazon experience.

We see it in the ads that are served to us as we surf the Net.

Each time you click something, buy something, watch something, pause on something – you are amplifying.

Artificial intelligence and quantum computing algorithms begin to shape your world based on what you are paying attention to.

Complicating matters, we are hard-wired to focus on the dangerous and negative. Marketers and those who wish to spread their message know this and act accordingly.

We’re easily manipulated, even when we are doing our best to be mindful.

Think about a time that was traumatic and dramatic.

Now try to remember a time where all was well in your world and everything was peaceful.

How quickly did you remember the trauma and the drama?

How hard was it to remember a peaceful time?

Think about the news? How much of it is trauma and drama?

How much of it is positive?

So much is competing for our attention and doing so in ways that are noisy and negative. Our brains like that.

We are going to keep being fed the noisy and negative – because that is what we are amplifying.

What do you want to do to break the cycle? Change what gets amplified?

What we pay attention to is going to shape our world.

What world do you want to live in?


I find that when a topic begins to cross my path repeatedly, it’s time to pay attention. Quantum computing, recently, has been that topic.

What makes Quantum Computing so interesting, and scary, is that it potentially takes information and either amplifies or cancels it. We are seeing this work in current AI algorithms using binary (classical) programming and current technologies.

Introduction to Quantum Computing ( – non-affiliate link, 60 minutes) This is the tutorial that got me thinking about Amplification. Mid-way through, one of the experts mentioned waves, troughs, and how they amplify and cancel each other. She mentioned that this concept is being leveraged in Quantum Computing and AI applications.

The Grand Challenge and Promise of Quantum Computing (GoTo 2019, 45 minutes) A clear explanation of what quantum computing is and potential applications.

Tristan Harris – How Technology Hijacks People’s Minds (Medium article) Tristan Harris was a technology ethicist at Google. He describes the “behind the scenes” of how technologies are being leveraged to take over our attention.

Looking at the Altitude Dimension

I see altitude as scale and scope.

I > my immediate environment > my family and/or department > the organization > the neighborhood and/or market > the nation > the earth > the universe > ?

We only have control of the I (and some days, for some of us, even THAT is dodgy).

We may influence our immediate relationships and environment.

Everything else, we need to observe and work with (or move on – if that is an option).

The small-scale and the large-scale influence each other.

Many of us are comfortable thinking at one particular level.

We’re being invited to look at how our actions influence, and are influenced by, different scales of our environment.

A way to think about this is through the language of business.

Our tasks influence our projects. Our projects influence our programs. Our programs influence our portfolio. Our portfolios influence our business and how our business engages with the market and, therefore, with the world.

Meanwhile, what is going on in the world influences our chosen market. What we see in the market influences our enterprise business strategy. Our enterprise business strategy influences how we organize our portfolios and what we are trying to accomplish in these portfolios. Programs are then developed and projects get funded based on what we are trying to accomplish at the higher levels (in an ideal world).

Think about what is on your plate.

What is the influence on you?

How are your actions influencing your immediate environment?

What might be the impact locally? Globally?

Details disappear at higher altitudes.

The north star is seldom glimpsed in the forest.

Can you see your impact at a level that differs from the perspective you usually take?