Innovation consultant Andrew Zolli and journalist Ann Marie Healy draw examples from widely diverse economic, natural and social systems to explain the nature of resilience, its significance and the factors that contribute to it. The concepts in this complex exposition apply to society today and will become increasingly relevant as world systems become progressively interconnected and stressed. Even though Zolli and Healy offer no easy answers, their treatise outlines ways to augment systemic resilience. getAbstract recommends this ambitious work to futurists, risk managers, crisis management planners and systems thinkers.
The Significance of Resilience
Systems – economic, environmental, social – that people once treated as distinct from one another have become increasingly interwoven and interdependent. Disrupt one system and ripples spread through others. What makes complex systems act this way, and what can be done to make them function more safely? The solution is not more information. Better predictions about when cataclysmic events might occur won’t necessarily lead to increased control. Instead, society must make its systems more adaptable and responsive. That requires understanding the emerging field of resilience.
Why do some systems fail while others rebound from similar events? What makes systems vulnerable to disruption, and which traits nourish resilience? Answering these questions, or even asking them clearly, is difficult. Discrete fields define resilience in different ways, but all of them acknowledge that resilience requires “continuity and recovery in the face of change,” particularly change imposed from an external source. Resilient systems use “tight feedback mechanisms” to tell when a sudden change is imminent.
Characteristics of Complex Systems