Chapter 4: Breaking Free from Conventional Thought – Resilient Thinking: Protecting Organisations in the 21st Century


In this chapter, we will cover the need to move on from the idea that models and frameworks are fully effective, and think about the need to develop originality in thought.

The twenty-first-century checklister

Up to this point, we have only briefly discussed the checklist culture, and the idea that it can be useful for some people to rely upon frameworks to provide them with the guidance that they need to conduct their essential activities. This is fine if you want to be limited and engender a dependence upon recycled information which may not necessarily be applicable in all cases. The fact that flexibility, one of the most overused and under-applied words in management, is probably a fundamental requirement for the effective response and recovery process, can tend to be forgotten in checklist culture. Here’s a thought: you would think that the inherent flexibility and almost immeasurable wealth of information available to us on the Internet would allow us to free our thoughts slightly and to become a more adaptable and flexible group of professionals. Well, that may well be the case for some of us, but for others the Internet and the growth of information capability in the twenty-first century is actually allowing the checklist culture to thrive, increase and permeate.

To understand the scale of this issue, let’s consider the plethora of templates, free programmes, planning guidelines, ‘buy a course or consultancy from us’ sites or any of the many other available easy-to-complete, corner-cutting, plagiarism-developing resources that are available to us all electronically. Let’s also admit it, we have all either looked at them or used them in some context or other at some time since the Web became the core of our lives. I don’t believe that there’s anything wrong with that, and like many things in life moderation in use can be beneficial and provide real utility. However, like many things in life also, overuse and dependency can very rapidly become a negative thing. The cheap and easy processes that allow us to access other people’s materials and thought processes, and sometimes these materials and thought processes themselves, have been modelled on others’ work, and effectively make us lazy. Think about this: if, during your appraisal at work, or even casually, your boss said to you that in their opinion you were lazy and a corner-cutter – how would you feel? How would you feel if they said that you were an inveterate cheat who copied other people’s materials and passed them off as your own by changing words, phrases and content as a short cut to meeting your needs?

Even more importantly, how do you feel about yourself when you’ve been entrusted with developing strong and workable plans specific to your organisation and you’ve borrowed somebody else’s material? And, even more importantly than that, deep in your heart of hearts, do you really feel that what you’ve borrowed is going to be effective? It is worth asking you these questions because, if you feel uncomfortable about any of these (and I suggest that you should), then you aren’t naturally a checklister. Whilst that is good news for you and probably for your organisation, you do need to be aware that the Internet and the resources that are available to you can change you from a fine, upstanding, self-sufficient, thinking and adaptive professional into a borrower. And although there may be benefits, this cannot be beneficial in specific circumstances for specific organisations. Have you ever tried on a ‘one-size-fits-all’ item of clothing? It may chafe in places, or be excessively baggy in others – and it will rarely do the job fully satisfactorily because it is about convenience and low cost, rather than ‘fitness for purpose’.

The culture of borrowing and adapting material is actually becoming a pandemic within many industries, as the capability of the Internet, and social networking sites in particular, continues to grow. Let’s be absolutely clear here, we are not advocating in any way that the Internet and the infinite resources available are a bad thing in themselves; that would be to ignore their revolutionary and transformational power and effect. But, and it is a big ‘but’, once we add in human beings with their natural competitiveness, vanity, desire to be seen to be performing better than their peers and colleagues and so on, the plagiarism from the Internet begins! A question to ask yourself is this: within your peer group, your network and organisational colleagues (perhaps those you meet at conferences and seminars), how many of them know in depth about the many and multifaceted elements of resilience? The simple answer to that is this: very few. And where did they get their knowledge, and how can they apply it if it is not their own?

We all know some things; in some areas we have more depth of knowledge than in others; in some areas we are specialists; and in others we have no clue whatsoever. That is the truth without exception within the world of resilience, in fact in every aspect of life. The thing to do now is to wander across to the Internet, go and have a look at the specialist and professional groups on social networking sites and see how many self-professed experts there are. Even more importantly, take a close look at what the self-professed experts are posting on the sites. At first glance, it often looks like they are providing you with information that they have gleaned from their wide and deep knowledge and experience. In the vast majority of cases … they aren’t. In fact, the vast majority of them are trawling various news sites and recycling them without any additional comment, qualification, innovative thought or valuable insight. Well, I’ve got news for you: anyone can set up an RSS feed from any one of millions of sites and cut out the checklisters. Their activity is not about the growth of knowledge; it is not about providing any development of ideas based around the items that are posted; it is often more about ‘Look at me, aren’t I knowledgeable – give me a job’. And that, for me, is a case of deception, because in many cases if you do press for further comment or information for many of these individuals, you often get no response whatsoever. Why? Because they don’t really know what they’re talking about; in fact, they’re not talking about anything new at all – they’re just telling you what somebody else has said!

So, what you have there are the fully up-to-date, very networked and very aware individuals who are falling back on the age-old behavioural processes often associated with the very worst of resilience managers. ‘This is what it says; read it’. Wouldn’t you prefer it to be something like, ‘This is what it says; read it and also this is my viewpoint. I’m interested in learning about other viewpoints and ways in which we can, as a profession and industry, improve our capabilities’? What we are getting in most instances is worse and more damaging than empty noise; many of the reports that these cyber checklisters are bombarding us with are simply media outputs with all the properties of speculation and unsubstantiated opinion that go with them. They are ripe for debate, some of them are ripe for development, and some of them may even be ripe for inclusion within forward-looking organisations to improve resilience. But a simple post that says: ‘20% of IT companies worried about cyber threats’ posted by Joe Smith (this week’s top influencer) and followed by a link to a news website tells us nothing much about anything. If we get into the habit of telling people nothing about anything, but dressing it up as something about something, and we are perceived to be reliant upon irrelevant information, or that which can be reoriented to suit us, then we are doing ourselves, the resilience profession and, ultimately, our employers a major disservice.

Which brings us on to another type of checklister: the type of person who has learned something on a course, or has read it in a book, and now considers their theory to be the main and overriding one with which we should all comply. Even better is the type of person who has written a particular document, good as it may be, and then expects us all to accept it without question. And then there are the real humdingers who are involved in the inner circle of some kind of group, society or association, who consider themselves to be the absolute oracles of everything and who expect us to gaze in awe at their mighty brains and at the fantastic work that they do. A by-the-numbers checklister, one who speaks rather than listens; sends rather than receives; and shouts, figuratively, when they could perhaps back off a little bit, can be very dangerous indeed. They can be intimidating, they have influence and often powerful networks, and they are able to shape policies – sometimes at national level – which may be misguided and may offer no help or assistance to individuals or organisations whose aim is to become more resilient.

Now, we all know that none of us is perfect; it would not be right for me to sit here in judgement and effusively writing disrespectful statements about different people who may well be at the top of their game in their particular field. But it is important to ensure that – whatever anybody says, no matter how much they tell you that they know, no matter how much they could convince you that their way is the correct way, no matter how intimidating they and their colleagues may be, and no matter how much you want to be their friend – you should not be afraid to question, criticise, argue and debate. You have every right to challenge checklisters and ‘experts’, and every right to offer your version of how things should be. However, if you don’t take the opportunity to test knowledge, and to add your own, the pursuit of resilience and best practice in what is a developing ‘industry’ may as well stop right now. Who knows, you may actually reach the satisfying point where you expose the checklister’s weaknesses, and by doing so offer a new model for the resilience organisation of the future. It has to be worth the effort, doesn’t it?

The failings of experience

Close your eyes, think hard, and in your mind’s eye envision the resilience professional: experienced, knowledgeable, confident, capable, drives an Aston Martin? The perfect resilience professional will have a good balance of all of these attributes, and if you do really well, then you get the car. However, one of the most coveted attributes when I ask colleagues and peers about what they need from resilience professionals is often ‘experience’. There is nothing wrong with that whatsoever; experience is a good thing, as it allows us to become extremely knowledgeable about most things which may happen to us in the future. This is because what we have learned in the past is going to allow us to become far more adaptable and versatile when faced with whatever may come next, and it is going to make us far better than our peers in every respect.

Guess what, I disagree. Whilst great store can be set by experience, there is quite a lot about the culture of the experienced professional that is potentially worrying. I, personally, think that nobody learns much that is applicable from experience. And what I mean by this is that experience is something that happens to us, and our responses to it are based upon our perceptions of what happened, how we felt, our own reactions, and how successful we felt we were. So, if there are two of us in a room and we both have exactly the same experience from the day of our birth (and even that is impossible), and the same thing happens to both of us at the same point in time while we are in that room, do you think that our experience and the lessons we learn from it will be exactly the same? Of course not; perception is everything and the human mind, wonderful as it is, allows us to put our own ‘spin’ on everything that happens to us. Therefore, experience can never be properly shared because it belongs to one person only.

Now, in a similar way to the checklist, let’s think about our experienced professionals in our sector. The old and bold, or even the young and smart, absolutely believe that their experience equips them to be able to face the future confidently and capably. Well, they are halfway there, but their experience is theirs and theirs alone; they will take their experience and they will bend and shape it to suit whatever the next event will be. They will use anecdotal knowledge and the memories of their own experiences to shape responses, and if you are really unlucky, they could shape yours as well. This is the world according to them and may not necessarily be the world that we need to live in. How many times have you read a document, a newspaper article, a blog message or an article, which says somewhere in it, ‘in my experience’, or ‘when I was …’? It may all be very entertaining, some of it may be applicable, some of it may be extremely useful, but it is not the basis for future planning. It could be the basis for future disaster.

Just because you have experienced something at a point in time, in a certain place, under certain conditions, it does not mean that the experience is applicable at any time ever again. Everything around you changes by the second – conditions change, people change, the weather changes – and things like this will affect the outcomes next time round. So, all of those people, who rely on their experience as being the core of their capability, need, I suggest, to start to think about adding a little more colour to their palette. In a dynamic, growing industry, where threats and risks change, where the benign environment changes, and where things can happen extremely quickly and without warning, or even slowly and with plenty of warning, those who rely upon the flawed idea of experience as the main generator of capability for the organisation – or even for themselves – will find themselves staring at a potential nightmare, as they are overtaken by events that their experience has not equipped them to cope with.

But more than anything else, the thing that makes the checklisters and the experience-mongers not only inappropriate, but downright dangerous to an organisation, is that they think and believe that they know the answers. They may well know some of the answers; they may know the majority of the answers. In fact, they may be that 0.0001 per cent who really do know all the answers. In reality, there is a significant gap between most people’s self-regard and their capability; so how come our industry seems to have more than its fair share of them? And how come our industry seems to have more than its fair share of checklisters? Well, I go back to the same old story, men with loud voices, who are fond of their own opinions, who have a degree of expertise in a particular area and are keen to show, through their competitive nature, that what they know is more valuable than what their colleagues know. Now add in some good old institutional arrogance, an awareness of rank structure that may have been gleaned from the military or the police (but not always), some aspiration and some ambition and you’ve got a very turgid mix. I’m wondering whether people like this exist in every other area of business, or whether it’s just ours? Well, they may well do and it is very likely that they do. The problem is that in the resilience ‘sector’, the type of failure caused by checklisters and by the type of people we are talking about here can be significant, damaging and irreversible.

In fact, let’s be more specific – in the worst cases, where the gravity of situations and risks demands everything that we are not talking about here, in order to be able to provide balanced thinking and forward-looking assessment and management capabilities, the result of failure can be fatal. And this is the difference that is important to remember at this point: in some, but not all, areas of our industry and sector, people can die because of our inability to do what we are here to do. It is important to remember also that nothing should stand in the way of our ability to maintain security, continuity, resilience and the protection of our own people. Consequently and logically, we should begin to think about excluding egos and ambitions, our own fantastic world view, the plan that we wrote and is so good because we wrote it, and so on. Because I don’t know about you, but if it is me who is responsible for a fatal problem because of who I am and personal behaviours that I could have fixed, I’m not going to be feeling too good about it.

To make things really work, to get your organisation to do things that you really want to do, to be resilient and to be competitive, balance and nuance are the way ahead. Ego, posturing and the relentless pursuit of outperforming our colleagues and competitors, so that we look good at the expense of everything else, belongs on a sports field – not in the serious business of resilience.

Figure 7: Experience

There are various interpretations and attitudes towards the relative merits, advantages and disadvantages of those who have experience, those who have a learning qualification and perhaps those who come into the industry with neither. Does the person with experience have the full range of requirements to be effective and successful? Is the brainy academic the answer? Or is it time for new blood with no baggage to make its mark?

Perhaps it depends on your own status and where you came from. Each ‘type’ has its merits and each has its drawbacks. The table offers some ideas for you to think about and perhaps to consider your views about what you aspire to be, or how you think your ideal resilience professional’s profile should look.

Is it a good idea to use the majority of the ‘good’ elements of experience and learning and combine with the approach of the person who is neither?

Do the ‘good’ elements compensate for the problems that the ‘bad’ may cause? It’s your choice …

Continuity of operations

As the title of this chapter is ‘Breaking Free from Conventional Thought’, it is probably an appropriate time to start thinking about what we can actually do in different ways to meet the challenges that may be facing us as resilience professionals. We’re not going to go through a checklist, that’s for sure, but we should begin to think about what is in place, how things are done and how they can be done differently (if they need to be done differently) to be able to ensure that organisational resilience is something that can be achieved in a cost-effective way – and that means including current risks and, logically, those that may develop in the future.

At this juncture, it is probably quite useful to think about what conventional thought is. Of course we have already talked about the checklisters, the ‘Sir Humphreys’, and the experience trap. In general terms, we know that we need to conduct people planning and resilience thinking to match organisational processes. But so far, we haven’t really come up with any good ideas about how we’re going to do it. The first question to ask is, ‘Will conventional thought do the job?’ Is it good enough just to be able to do what everybody else has been doing, without innovation and without looking forward in any great detail? Some people will say that it is, and perhaps they are right to some degree. If you are comfortable with the parameters within which you operate, and you are reasonably confident that you can meet any potential problems which may face you within those parameters, then perhaps you will be all right and you can relax. But, if we work on the principle that we are continually trying to improve, and if we are trying to look to excel as a competitive organisation, then we should consider thinking a little harder than our competitors, and trying to outsmart the development of threats and risks which may appear in the future. What is certain is that your adversaries will be innovating whether you do or not.

If we offered a checklist during this part of the book it would actually negate the whole thing and it would be an absolute waste of time reading any further. So how should we orient our thoughts towards a point where we can begin to innovate and start to look at ways of improving what we do and how we do it in the future? Personally, I’m a big believer in the blank page. It is always useful to be able to consider very carefully absolutely everything that could come into the mix when you are thinking about anything that has any kind of organic life or potential for behavioural change about it. I believe that in the same way that checklisters and experience can have limits to their value, being able to open your mind matters a lot. This is where you need to start doing what you did when you were a child and before it was trained out of you: you need to start to imagine things. If you take a child and put them in an empty room with a cardboard box, they will make something of it. Leave them for half an hour and a cardboard box could be a car, a spaceship or a house, or filled with imaginary friends – but it will be something that they have thought about, imagined and created in their mind. They may have used a little bit of experience, and they may have applied a little bit of experience to their imaginative approach, but, in the main in their little head, they will have gone off into a flight of fancy and will be developing stories, discussions and interactions without any prompting from anyone.

So why not take a similar approach when looking at what is facing you and your organisation? You don’t have to make up wild imaginary risks. But why not think with a little more fluidity about the frameworks that you are in and think about things can develop, how they can become better and become worse based upon developments, interdependencies and interactions? How do we respond? How would we like to respond? How do our peers and superiors want us to respond? And how can we develop the capability to do respond? If we do it by the numbers, you can guarantee that we will not do it satisfactorily. If we do it by application of thought, we will perhaps have a better chance of doing things better. There’s no need to go off on flights of fancy because that would be dangerous, but there is every need to think about the things that you may not be thinking about just at the moment. And while you’re opening your mind, really start to think about perception. That means, think about what you see and what you interpret, and then try to put it in the context of an organisation and a competitive environment that may not necessarily see things your way. So, try to understand and accommodate in your free thinking the perceptions of others.

Every incident in every way means something different to everyone who is involved. Think about your organisation: what is a problem for your company is not necessarily a problem for the company next door to you which produces different things for different customers within different timescales. Of course, if an asteroid lands on your building, then it will probably have some impact upon theirs as well, but, in the main, everyone is affected in different ways. Therefore, there is no best-fit plan, there is no best-fit solution for any event at any time under any conditions which will be replicable the next time it happens. This can be quite difficult to cater for, and I am not suggesting for a moment that whatever plans you have will not be fit to mitigate the effect of a particular event and its impact upon your organisation. In fact, quite the contrary: it is important that the plans are in place. But the main and underpinning point here is that plans are single-use only – and after every event they will invariably need to be amended. Now, how often does that happen?

Whatever approach is taken, most importantly the plans that are in place need to be written on the basis that they make sense. They need to be based upon the realities that face your business and your organisation, and they need to provide you with the capability to respond. They do not need to tie you down to a particular flowchart which does not allow you the latitude to respond; or does not allow you to branch off into different directions, should needs be; and that has not been planned properly, with the necessary levels of redundancy and supporting linkages to ensure that, when things do go wrong, and you do have to deviate from the plan, you have an escape route. The linkage of all the elements contained in any plan is important, just as in any other chain-type structure. No matter how it is constructed, there needs to be a strong bond between the various elements which combines to provide an all-inclusive yet flexible capability. We talk about ‘chains’ a lot and they are often used as representative symbols for continuity in particular. When you think about it in a little more detail, chains are flexible, they hold together various components, they can be locked or unlocked, they can be short or long, and normally there are quite difficult to break. If your chain, or your capability planning, is strong in the right points, links the right elements and is constructed of the right materials, then you have continuity.

As we are still working on the concept of not being too prescriptive here, it is important again to consider how you would do things differently based upon what we have been talking about so far. Importantly, do you consider yourself to be a flexible, thinking, resilient person in a flexible, thinking, resilient organisation? If not, is it your fault, or is it that of the organisation which expects you to be working to rigid processes?

The stovepipe and the silo (again)

If we think back to Chapter 1, we mentioned briefly the issues related to stovepipe or silo management. There are many different functions and personalities with every organisation, many of them conflict, and in most organisations to some degree there will always be cases of people getting on with their own business and not really being too interested in what everyone else is doing. This is another fundamental aspect of human nature and when you throw in the issue of competitiveness within organisations, then you can sometimes find that it is quite difficult to break, to any great effect, stovepipe or silo approaches. You can write it in your documents, you can plan for it, you can brief your people, but, at the end of the day, human nature will always prevail.

I don’t want to bang on too much in this section about the issues relating to stovepipe and silo management, but it may be useful to take things a stage further and to consider how we often think in isolation about what we are doing, and to consider the implications a little more. I think that most people would agree that, in business, one of the main drivers for our activity is to contribute to the bottom line and to maintain profitability. We need to maintain a competitive edge and to look for opportunities wherever and whenever we can. Of course, in our area of the business we need to ensure that resilience is built in (at least, that is an aspiration) and we are probably all firmly of the belief that this will contribute towards success. But what about all of those other members of the team who are frantically seeking to contribute to the bottom line, so that they can get their bonus, or climb the promotion ladder and reach the peak within the business? Do they care about little old you and your specific area? No, they don’t!

When you are seeking to set up a new partnership or joint venture, or even to launch a new product or service, there is a great deal of activity that is required. You need to do a significant amount of schmoozing, relationship building, planning and discussion, all that kind of thing. You will probably carry out due diligence upon an organisation – it would make sense if you did – and you will carry out the necessary legal and regulatory preparations. All good stuff, all part of effective enterprise risk management and good corporate governance. But what about your own people? How do you stop them from damaging the resilience of your organisation in their keenness to seal the deal? How many conversations do they have, business meetings with potential partners, social and other discussions, as part of the whole preparatory process, for which they are not prepared or informed, or during which they let their guard down and allow information to seep across to someone who may potentially be a competitor? The focus on getting the business will, in their view, override other considerations, and sometimes issues such as security, continuity and other hindering processes may not particularly be within their field of vision. This is dangerous silo thinking. This is not about lines of control within the organisation, or management discussions about line diagrams and who reports to whom. This is about thinking only about one element of a continuous and merged process which together will protect the business and allow it to grow. An unguarded and immature approach to building relationships and to setting up partnerships with those who are external to our organisation and who may cause damage in the longer term is, frankly, fairly stupid.

Figure 8: Field of vision

Within your organisation there will be a legitimate and required focus on the things that the business needs to do to achieve its aims. The workforce will be as focused on their own work as you will be on yours and the activities that they are required to carry out. In looking outward, but in keeping and maintaining focus and effort only on their own areas, they perhaps will not notice or be aware of the risks and threats that may be lurking around and outside their field of vision.

They will not be aware that everything that they do will have attendant issues or risks which could have damaging effects upon the organisation. So, if they can’t see what is out there, first of all you will need to be their eyes, and second, you need to try to get them to widen their field of vision to include the threats.

I think it is a law of physics that widening the field of view reduces focus, or something like that. I think it is also a law of humanity that people concentrate on what interests and rewards them. So, you have a real challenge to try to make this work.

You may be mentally nodding your head here because I can bet that you have either been involved in or have witnessed situations like this – where your organisation has chased the result and forgotten about the disablers which may damage the organisation in the longer term. So, when we’re thinking about knocking down the silos we need to think not only about the traditional ideas of management within the organisation, but also, and critically importantly, about getting our own people to open their field of vision and to understand the various blended issues affecting us in the wider context. But, make no mistake, this will be a challenge because you’re going to have to convince those who are chasing the dollar that they must consider things more widely. The target-driven, results-focused organisation with which you probably are involved has little time for you and your resilience principles, which basically add friction and slow down processes. This is where you have to be a thinker once again. More importantly, this is where you have to begin to influence your colleagues that they themselves need to start thinking a little more and working away from their own mental checklist about how to swing the deal. Maybe this is aspirational, and maybe we should just settle for the fact that we should come in later and bolt on the various solutions to the problems that are engendered during negotiation and partnership processes. However, it would be better if we could really influence the organisation to break down silos.

But this is all really tricky, because in simple terms we are back to the same old principle that human beings are going to spoil your fun. Everyone within your organisation at your level wants to do better than you. Some people within your organisation at your level, and those who are below you, who want to fill your shoes, want to see you fail. There is no point in becoming paranoid about this because it’s just one of those facts of life. So you need to consider how you make it work, so that you don’t fail, so that the organisation doesn’t fail, and so that we meet the target of achieving resilience.

Thinking your way out of it

I was at a meeting a few weeks ago at work, when someone who is involved in the more ‘artistic’ educational programmes that we provide used the term ‘non-creatives’ for those who were not involved in that arty type of activity. I thought that was a bit disparaging, and this got me thinking and starting to consider whether we are creative enough in our thinking within resilience and related activities and functions. Clearly, we are bound by regulation and legislation and the need to provide specific asset-protection functions to our employers, clients and stakeholders. But do we need to adhere rigidly to frameworks in our thought processes, or could we be more creative in our approach to providing protection for organisations?

I suppose, as an example, that the really creative (not technological) activities related to security at the moment are those concerned with design for protection, which blends functions and aesthetics in buildings and structures where the risks of, say, terrorist attack may be high. Before that, innovation and creative thought in crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) was probably the previous incarnation of truly creative thought processes.

So, the question is: where else can we provide creative approaches to our business and functions? Where does creative and innovative thought allow us to really add value to organisational capability? We have, I think, endured endless discussions on the various functions of resilience management and its place within the organisation, and I think that maybe the fostering of creativity and of new approaches to the problems that face resilience may be something that can add real value. Regardless of the fact that we seem to accept that we can expect various levels of buy-in or otherwise from our organisations, there must be new ways of doing things which will really allow us to align with organisational priorities, to develop excellence and, thus, a real and meaningful capability to protect assets and ensure organisational survival.

Of course, there will be obstacles. There always are. However, a creative and innovative approach – the new way of looking at things – may provide us with ways to overcome those obstacles and to achieve our objectives in a more efficient and effective way than perhaps we’ve done in the past – or even are doing now. There, then, is the challenge: creativity is not the sole domain of advertising people and designers, and perhaps we should develop and claim a little bit of creativity for ourselves.

The concept of creative dissent

While we continue to bang on about the positioning and acceptance of resilience management (you know: getting the c-suite to buy-in, developing aligned programmes, contribution to bottom line and so on), perhaps we could be considering other management issues that could help our organisations. If we can assume that we leave our egos at home and save our ‘look at me, I’m great’ approach for our kids, and try to be brave enough to accept that sometimes there is risk in ordinary management decision processes (failure and blame), then there may be some helpful approaches to take which may really help to move you and your organisation forward.

One of these could be the adoption of creative dissent. It is easy to be a yes-man/-woman; letting decisions go by without rocking the boat can avoid getting you noticed for the wrong reasons and stop you being picked off when the accusations begin to fly. But it can be extremely useful sometimes to challenge the decisions that you are faced with and to contribute your own opinions and ideas. So why don’t more people do it? Why do people tend to put up with bad ideas (and bad management decisions) and their consequences – making their views known only to their colleagues in hushed tones, or their spouses when they get home at the end of another frustrating day?

Perhaps, for many – especially the good old standard ex-military and law-enforcement types – there is a hard-wired response to decisions from above that ensures that we do what we are asked to the best of our ability – because that is the way that success is measured in our experience. For others, it is fear of the blame game or maybe even of losing status by rocking the boat – which could mean that they fear becoming left out of the decision-making process completely.

But what about the tried and tested methods of debate and discussion? Why not question decisions and offer creative alternatives? Why do many managers find it difficult to indicate to their hierarchy that there could be another way? Can dissent ever be creative, or is it always seen in a negative light in your organisation and stamped out? Do your top team see you as an innovator and contributor, or as the person or department who just ‘does resilience’? I suppose it depends upon your organisation and how much risk is involved – how much is at stake for you? Only you can make that judgement, but one of the worst feelings possible is looking back and wishing that you had done things differently when you had the chance.


The resilience industries are congested with static thinkers and pontificators. Networks are strong and there are many who feel that they are entitled to recycle their experience and second-hand knowledge. They aren’t. I am convinced that the current prevalence of particular types of people is not only untenable, but has the potential to cause real and damaging effect when properly tested.

This, of course, gives an opportunity to think about and apply a little ingenuity and freshness of approach. Unless, of course, you want things to stay as they are …