Opinion

It’s time the world gets ‘resigient’

Vinod S/S Shreeram Narayan | Updated on August 31, 2021

To solve the problems that lie ahead, citizens, countries and corporations need ‘resigience’ — a combination of resilience and agility

A year-and-a-half into the pandemic, and it’s not an overstatement to say that our lives have dramatically changed. From the social interaction among individuals and customer relationships for organisations to international relations among competing nations, the post-pandemic world is unlike any we know — new and sophisticated challenges at global scale.

As Einstein said, “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at, when we created them.”

To solve the problems of the rest of the 21st century, the world needs a higher-order life skill that we are calling resigience — a combination of resilience and agility.

With resilience, the ability to quickly recover from a difficult situation, and agility, the ability to quickly and decisively respond in the face of uncertainty, we believe that the world will be able to predict, prepare for, respond to and recover from disruptions of all kinds.

Design fulfilling lives

The pandemic has brought much-needed appreciation for human race’s vulnerability and a dilution of entitlement among the privileged. This presents an opportunity to train our minds and fundamentally transform ourselves into resigient people.

In the professional arena, this could be in the form of adapting to new ways of work, recalibrating productivity/performance, retooling for new needs, etc. Resigient workers will proactively embrace ambiguity in an agile manner.

In personal lives, this would be in the form of reconsidering expectations, preferences and behaviours. For instance, when confined at home during lockdowns, one cannot walk off their anger. A resigient person will create new ways not just to control emotions, but nurture positive ones. They will also find the sweet spot between the ‘social dilemma’ and fostering digital connections.

While resigience can be immensely valuable for individuals, citizens alone can only do so much. Success in the post-pandemic world needs governments to step up and be resigient, too.

Countries can protect its people

In the initial stages of the pandemic, we all saw the absolute lack of preparation among even the most advanced nations. This presented several unique and awkward challenges for leaders worldwide.

The first of them is ‘co-opetition’ — cooperation among competing nations. For instance, several countries worked together under the aegis of the World Health Organization (WHO) to share information on the spread of the virus and produce vaccines. It began to look like the world is collectively building resigience.

Yet, when it came to enjoying the benefits, rich countries hoarded an unfair share. We are also seeing national resilience and self-sufficiency being negatively impacted by rising inequality of resources and power, especially when facing a global crisis.

In parallel, the paramountcy of individual privacy gave way to recognising its conflict with public health concerns leading to “a nuanced understanding of the right to privacy and data protection.” We believe that resigience will help make such trade-offs intelligently without further discriminating against the already marginalised.

The biggest impact of resigient thinking will be on eliminating obstacles and bureaucracy in pursuit of agility. This will come from public-private partnerships, tech-driven citizenry, collaborative/open-source approaches, and the collective support of the people.

As citizens and governments adopt a more resigient and open-minded approach to the future, businesses will be left with no choice but to follow suit.

Becoming a resigient corporation

In the last year, customer behaviour has changed irrevocably. Not only are customers more comfortable with digital products and e-commerce, they are also constantly re-evaluating their needs, wants and desires. People have been leaving cities to smaller towns. Gendered roles are evolving; families are buying more digital home care, cleaning equipment, dryers, etc. They’re also watching more on OTT.

Resigient corporations will quickly respond to these changing customer expectations and stay relevant to their inherent aspirations. They will address unconventional markets with thoughtful reimaginings of their strategies. They will leverage tech like AR and VR for newer experiences; and 3D printing and 5G adoption for enhanced services from a distance. They will also take a platform ecosystem approach, bringing complementary products and customers to offer a higher level of services/experiences.

With respect to its people, corporations will be resigient in finding the balance between being resilient and supporting their employees yet being agile and automating activities to continue operations in the absence of employees.

For a better future

Resigience is not a strategy, theme or a tool. Most importantly, it is not the same as conventional preparedness, though that’s helpful in its own right. Resigience is a higher-order skill that will shape the way we experience and respond to ongoing disruptions.

By combining resilience, which is about recovering from setbacks; and agility, which is about decisively responding in the face of uncertainty — resigience powers individuals, countries and corporations to overcome disruptions with minimal impact. It enables us to learn rapidly, experiment cautiously and improve as we go along.

Viond is Business Head for Public Goods and Author, and Narayan is Engagement Manager, Public Goods and Health, Thoughtworks, India

Published on August 31, 2021

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