Using design to build organisational resilience

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The world is changing

Today’s customers have high expectations. Among other things they want:

  • To be recognised
  • To receive personalised services
  • To consume services easily – when, where and how it suits them
  • To connect with the people around them
  • To trust the organisations they interact with
  • Transparency
  • Privacy
  • Unexpected moments of surprise and delight
  • A say in the way things work

As a result, of these expectations, rather than structuring themselves to efficiently deliver standardised products resilient organisations continually reinvent themselves based on the needs of the human beings they seek to impact. This may include those who consume their offerings, their staff and allied individuals who help them to deliver their products and services.


Adaptive leadership is key

Gone are the days where leaders could succeed by splitting their organisations into silos designed to deliver component parts. In today’s rapidly changing, complex and interconnected world, the paternalistic commander-in-chief model just doesn’t cut it. Rather, those who are leading resilient organisations understand the needs of the human beings they impact, and adapt themselves, their organisations and their offerings to meet these ever changing needs.


4 ways to design for resilience


1. Build Empathy

Start by deeply understanding the problems that the people you wish to impact are trying to solve as they interact with you but also beyond what you offer today. What are people’s pain points, what are they afraid of, what makes them happy, what are their aspirations?


2. Consider a range of solutions

Work with those who you impact to generate multiple potential solutions (designers call this ideating) rather than jumping to implement the first idea that comes to mind.


3. Test and learn

Prioritise the list of solutions you have co-created. For those that seem most worthwhile, create some simple experiments that will help you to understand whether the ideas really have legs. If they do, go for it. If they don’t, that’s great: learn from the test to modify your plans in order to create an even better solution.


4. Iterate, iterate, iterate

Our world and the people in it won’t stand still. To build for resilience keep listening, ideating, testing, learning and refining.



To find out more about designing a resilient response within your organisation we recommend this recent article from the Stanford Social Innovation Review by Maya Bernstein & Marty Linsky on Leading change through adaptive design.


What design resources have you found valuable as you’ve grappled with these challenges? Share your experience in the comments or continue the conversation on twitter.


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