Stefanie Beninger on resilience: stabilize, adjust, or transform?

A report of the Radical Thinkers event with Stefanie Beninger

December 11 2022

“We all live in a world full of disturbances, from a plane engine breaking down to climate change. These are situations that threaten our functioning.” In the fourth edition of the Radical Thinkers Series, Stefanie Beninger, Assistant Professor of Marketing at IE Business School at IE University, argues that resilience helps us to handle with these disturbances.

Resilience is the ability to handle both positive and negative disturbances. Resilience can involve stabilizing, adapting, or even transforming in the face of disturbances. For positive disturbances, you can think of the arrival of new customers, while negative disturbances can include natural disasters.

“Resilience can offer a way to turn disturbances into opportunities – such as when organizations can provide a way to work together to continue to provide products and services to customers. However, resilience is not always a benefit, as sometimes a system can be so resilient that it can itself cause or amplify disturbances. Some resilient systems are also not supportive of wellbeing”, says Beninger.

The key to resiliency

We need to work together to better support resiliency. However, businesses tend to focus on themselves. Intertwined resilience with others is a better way forward. Researching different systems, such as a market and migrant-owned businesses, Beninger found that these business actors develop intertwined resilience at a personal, organizational, and meso-system levels, where they drew upon a variety of resources to do so. Beninger discusses some of her recent work that identified a number of these resources, including, for example, functioning infrastructure, but also cultural resources.

She argued that collaboration, diversity, redundancy, and flexibility of such resources allow organizations to navigate disturbances. In this way, developing for business “resilience” is a new core capability. “There is tension between resilience and efficiency”, cautioned Beninger, where these two goals need to be considered carefully together. Efficiency often calls for a focus on a few things, such as one type of crop or a few relationships, which undermines important aspects of resilience, such as diversity, redundancy, and collaboration. Businesses need to be open to consider resilience as key aspect for the future.

“You need to face disturbances to know that you are resilient”, mentions Beninger, both at the personal and business levels. To develop this new capability, she makes a plea for us to define the type of resilience that we want to develop in the face of different disturbances: to seek to stabilize, make incremental adjustments, or to transform. The future is ours and so is the resilience that comes with it!

The 'Radical Thinkers' series aims to provide a voice to alternative perspectives at the intersection of business, society, and ecology. We need to ask new questions where the old answers have become muted. 

The Radical Thinkers Series are and will remain online to make it as accessible as possible. Audiences include Nyenrode faculty members and colleagues as well as other interested parties.

We will be back in 2023 with the next session of the Radical Thinkers Series. Would you like to join this session? Follow us on LinkedIn. A new date will follow soon.

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