The massive disruptions of the last few years have made clear how critical it is for businesses to be resilient. Some companies flexed successfully with the changes, while others have struggled to keep up.
If you’re wondering how your company can boost its resilience for the road ahead, you’re not alone: more than half of executives feel their company is not as resilient as it should be. Given that the accelerated pace of change is likely to continue in the coming years, resilience may be one of the most valuable traits an organization can invest in.
To understand what makes some organizations more resilient than others, SAS carried out a global research study on more than 2,400 executives in finance, retail, manufacturing, healthcare and government. We polled them about five key traits that higher-resilience organizations embody, which we call The Resiliency Rules. And luckily, they’re all learnable.
Here, I'll outline the five rules, along with some small steps you can take to boost your organization’s resilience and prepare for the changes that lie ahead.
1. Increase your decision-making speed
In this era of disruption, reacting swiftly is critical. In our research, executives frequently cited the capacity for speed and agility in their definitions of resiliency – and across all countries and industries it was considered the most important aspect of resiliency.
To increase your organization’s speed, consider steps like streamlining decision-making processes, leveraging data to understand trends more quickly and putting in place policies to implement new ways of working—and even failing—faster. This doesn’t mean you should move fast and break things, but that you should implement practices that will enable your organization to react more swiftly. In general, companies that hesitate, dig in their heels or look the other way have the toughest time. Having a structure in place to allow you to act decisively and quickly will help you keep pace with changes as they come.
2. Get curious about the unknown
In our survey, 83% of high-resiliency executives ranked curiosity as “very important” to their business. In fact, high-resiliency executives valued curiosity eight times more than low-resiliency executives. Curiosity is foundational to finding new ways of working, developing innovations and adapting to changing market conditions. Interestingly, executives also said fostering curiosity in their employees was the greatest barrier to increasing resilience.
But curiosity is not complicated: it’s the drive to ask questions, seek out information and explore new possibilities. To boost curiosity in your own organization, encourage your employees to get more comfortable with the unknown, dive into research and analytics to find insights, and brainstorm new ideas without fear of embarrassment.
“In a world of fast-changing technologies and challenges, curiosity is part of informing yourself ahead of happening, and preventing negative disruptions on your business.” – CTO, Fintech
As industries evolve and entirely new jobs emerge in the coming years, curiosity will be even more crucial. In the meantime, approaching business challenges, big or small, with a willingness to think differently will set you on the path toward new solutions.
3. Innovate new ways of working
The natural product of curiosity is innovation, another trait we found common across the most resilient organizations. We’ve seen extraordinary examples of innovation in recent history, from SpaceX flights to 3D-printed prosthetics to the AI chatbots that have swept the globe this year.
Put simply, innovation is the ability to apply new ways of thinking to stubborn problems and unlock new business models, workflows and solutions. Fostering innovation means fostering the skills needed for innovation in your workforce. To do this, companies can:
- Identify skills gaps
- Increase learning and development opportunities
- Practice creative or divergent thinking
- Implement analytics in decision-making, pilot programs and the evaluation of whether innovations succeed.
Starting with small steps can help you and your staff exercise the innovation muscle.
4. Ensure every practice is equitable and ethical
As you increase your resiliency through some of the approaches outlined here, it’s critical to remain grounded in ethics, equity and sustainability. Solutions should always be inclusive, beneficial and careful not to impact vulnerable populations negatively. Focusing on these elements is intrinsically important and can help build business resiliency, as it helps organizations establish their reputations as trusted, responsible corporate citizens.
Putting this into practice can mean identifying your blind spots through a thorough evaluation of your existing practices and developing ones. It may mean standing up a committee or creating new positions to ensure business practices are ethical and equitable.
If you want to be resilient … be very clear in your mind how equity and resilience are related. You need to open your eyes and to think very deeply where you want to go and how to get there.” – CEO, Healthcare
5. Move in the direction of digital
Many of the steps mentioned so far involve leveraging data in some way, but rather than a piecemeal approach, it’s important for organizations to build data literacy into their company culture. Data can empower an organization to adapt better, but only if it’s baked into the company’s operations.
To become more digitally savvy, find platforms that provide the specific insights your team needs, have employees use data to back their hypotheses, and use analytics to understand what’s happening in the world and how competitors are doing. One hurdle we heard consistently was that companies either didn’t know how to analyze their data or had too much of it – calling out the importance of knowing how to capture data and draw insights from it.
“Many financial institutions struggle with disruptions like COVID because of poor data culture and shabby data management practices. But many organizations are taking the right steps to rectify the problems, particularly with respect to data culture and data architecture.” – CRO/CFO Consultant, Finance
You might not be able to transform your organization into a fully resilient one overnight, but if you begin to implement these five rules, you’ll be well on your way to increasing your organization's resilience before the start of 2024.Need help getting started? Take our resiliency assessment.