Organizational Resilience. How Learning Sustains Organizations in Crisis, Disaster, and Breakdown by D. Christopher Kayes

The Learning Organization

ISSN : 0969-6474

Article publication date: 5 February 2018

Menéndez Blanco, J.M. (2018), "Organizational Resilience. How Learning Sustains Organizations in Crisis, Disaster, and Breakdown by D. Christopher Kayes", The Learning Organization , Vol. 25 No. 2, pp. 143-146.

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

Organizational resilience: a brief introduction

Since the early years of this century, resilience has become an emerging topic in the business and management literature, well-known and applied in other sciences as psychology, ecology and engineering. Creating an organizational capacity for resilience requires, first, resilient individuals.

While personal resilience refers to the psychological ability to bounce back from negative emotional experiences and the flexible adaptation to environmental changing demands, the organizational resilience – following Lengnick-Hall et al. (2011) – could be defined as a firm’s ability to efficiently absorb, develop specific responses and ultimately engage in transformative activities to capitalize on disruptive surprises that potentially threaten organization survival. Thus, the organizational resilience concept includes resistance, adaptation and adaptability as main properties and implies shock absorption, reorganization and learning and adapting as main capacities.

Applied at the system level, resilience has three main approaches: the engineering (focused on the equilibrium notion), the ecological (linked to robustness, efficiency and return to equilibrium characteristics) and the adaptive (finding a balance between efficiency and adaptability to change). Although the adaptive approach may seem to fit the concepts of learning organization and organizational learning, recent literature on company resilience has emphasized the hypothesis that continuous innovation influences long-run sustainability and resilience and greater than having merely an adaptive capacity. Therefore, organizational resilience-focus management could be understood as a strategy of continuous anticipation and adjustment to disturbances by balancing efficiency and adaptability and, accordingly, an organization’s ability to continuously create competitive advantages based on innovations.

In Menéndez and Montes (2016) , several factors contributing to developing nurtured company resilience have been explored in a conceptual and practical approach. A recent empirical research based on this theoretical framework has noted the extraordinary contribution of human capital (defined in a broad sense) to company resilience: Human capital develops adaptation and adaptability through training, skills development, research and development (R&D) and changing company human resource structure by recruiting more qualified R&D personnel, engineers and graduates.

An overview of Kayes’ book: the main hypothesis and research strategy

By mixing the topic of organizational resilience (in a section of three) with the classic of organizational learning (in two sections), Professor Kayes argues and develops his main hypothesis on organizational resilience: A failure in organizations comes from a breakdown in learning, although fortunately the process of breakdown is itself a way of learning, latter being the key source of resilience in the aftermath of events. Hence, learning – especially from experience – is the valuable intervention to maintain resilience in the face of crisis, disaster and breakdown. Learning helps individuals understand the breakdown and how to develop an effective response in the future. In fact, the book is focused, mainly, on the processes and mechanism whereby learning breaks down.

Throughout the book, Professor Kayes shows how learning can help organizations become more resilient. One of two main research strategies to discuss the main hypothesis assumed is to explore how learning theory, research and practice influence the study of organizational resilience by rethinking Dewey’s vision of learning from experience (the experiential learning theory). Professor Kayes considers organizations as systems of interrelated learnings, in which routines and novelties interact to form learning and performance-based outcomes. At this point, Professor Kayes – as expected – is critical of certain popular management practices such as goal setting and rational thinking because they limit learning and can threaten resilience.The second main research strategy is related to the multiple study cases exposed for discussing his main thesis.

As expected, learning is the central source of resilience and the primary force for survival: learning, especially learning from experience, explains how organizations sustain resilience in the face of disaster, crisis and breakdown. When learning from experience breaks down, organizations become vulnerable; as a result, the breakdown of learning contributes to and is responsible for many organizational failures.

The structure and organization of the book

The structure of the book is as follows: In Section 1, Professor Kayes discusses the role that experience plays in learning in organizations by considering insights from the theory of experience and learning in organizations, especially from evidence-based learning, learning direct experience, counter experience and exploration. The theoretical references are grounded on Dewey and Kolb developments, mainly in the premise that the three aspects of experience (habits, emotions and cognitions) are the sources for learning in organizations.

In Section 2, Professor Kayes applies concepts of learning from experience to organizational processes, explores different characterizations of failure in organizations and discusses a new conceptualization of organizational breakdown based on how organizations learn or fail to learn from experience: in fact, failure could be considered, oftentimes, an inability of an organization to respond appropriately to external circumstances. Professor Kayes supports, greatly, in the contents of this section the claim that organizational failure comes from a breakdown of learning. He also illustrates this statement by examining recent collapses examples of the breakdown of learning: The 2008 financial crisis, in general, and the bankruptcy of Enron and Lehman Brothers, in particular, are examples of the breakdown of learning. Specifically, the case of Enron is related to the discussion on performance vs learning oriented systems in the sense that some pays for performance and other reward systems contribute to the breakdown of learning in organizations.

Finally, Professor Kayes devotes Section 3 to analyze the case study called the greatest intelligence failure in a generation: the misinterpretation of intelligence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in 2002 and 2003 and how certain players in the oil and gas industry have recovered from catastrophic failure to build organizations that rely on continuous learning. Amongst the different types of learning considered as interventions (cross-training across different functions, perceptual contrast training, coordination training self-correction training, scenario-based training and guided error training), the experiential one is broadly discussed because the ability to learn from experience is a key factor in organizational resilience.

The theoretical framework of Kayes insights combines management learning with organizational disaster research in a four stage model of learning breakdown built from Turner’s model of organizational and inter-organizational disaster. According this framework, organizational resilience is a function of an organization’s abilities to manage shifts in learning across the four stages of breakdown. Therefore, the meaning of organizational resilience is related to the role of learning from prior breakdowns and the introduction of learning into the daily company routines. In this context, based on the analysis of two industries – commercial aviation in the USA and the oil and gas industry – Professor Kayes shows how learning drives to resilience (Chapter 11: Building Learning in Organizations).

Positive discussion and implications

Although the main thesis of the book is well discussed, theoretically grounded and articulated with the help of several study cases, greater attention and detail about the concept of resilience is necessary. For readers unfamiliar with this topic, a brief definition, description and scope of the three most important approaches existing and a precise framework under which the topic is studied would be desirable. However, the crucial question is if learning is the pivotal source of organizational resilience. To a large extent, I agree, but in my opinion is the company human capital or human capability – and learning is a variable included in it – the main source of organizational resilience – as exposed in the introduction section – although more empirical research is needed in this regard. Entrepreneurial leadership is also necessary to mobilize the organization’s resources, capabilities and employees.

Methodologically, an alternative way to take advantage of Kayes’ insights could be by developing propositions and discuss them considering the study cases. Both for scholars and practitioners, the lessons learned from the multiple study cases discussed are valuable as well as the analysis and conclusions about the links between organizational resilience and the performance vs learning systems. Is it possible to develop organizational resilience only with learning?

Lengnick-Hall , C.A. , Beck , T.E. and Lengnick-Hall , M.L. ( 2011 ), “ Developing a capacity for organizational resilience through strategic human resource management ”, Human Resource Management Review , Vol. 21 No. 3 , pp. 243 - 255 .

Menéndez , J.M. and Montes , J.L. ( 2016 ), “ What contributes to adaptive company resilience? A conceptual and practical approach ”, Development and Learning in Organizations: An International Journal , Vol. 30 No. 4 , pp. 17 - 20 .

Further reading

Kayes , D.C. and Yoon , J. ( 2016 ), “ The breakdown and rebuilding of learning during organizational crisis, disaster, and failure ”, Organizational Dynamics , Vol. 45 No. 2 , pp. 71 - 79 .

Linnenluecke , M.K. ( 2017 ), “ Resilience in business and management research: a review of influential publications and a research agenda ”, International Journal of Managements Reviews , Vol. 19 No. 1 , pp. 4 - 30 .

Örtenblad , A. (Ed.) ( 2013 ), Handbook of Research on the Learning Organization: Adaptation and Context , Edward Elgar Publishing , Cheltenham, and Northampton, MA .

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National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Health and Medicine Division; Board on Global Health; Global Forum on Innovation in Health Professional Education; Forstag EH, Cuff PA, editors. A Design Thinking, Systems Approach to Well-Being Within Education and Practice: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2018 Oct 11.

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A Design Thinking, Systems Approach to Well-Being Within Education and Practice: Proceedings of a Workshop.

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4 Leadership in Organizational Resilience



“Over the past day of the workshop,” said Ballard from the Center for Organizational Excellence at the American Psychological Association (APA), “many topics came up related to organizational resilience.” These include well-being, stress, meaningfulness of work, mindfulness, a climate that is supportive of employees, and self-care. The audience also heard about a variety of pathways to healthy, resilient organizations, he said, before asserting that there is “not a cookie cutter approach.” Organizations must customize their methods and initiatives to meet their own unique organizational circumstances and employees. That said, a common thread that is or should be across all approaches is human centeredness and a focus on human behavior, he added. This is “psychology's area of expertise.” The Center for Organizational Excellence “works to enhance the functioning of individuals, groups, organizations, and communities through the application of psychology to a wide range of workplace issues.” The center, said Ballard, does this by creating healthy, resilient environments based on the knowledge and research from psychology. Often what they find, he said, is that implementation of evidence-based programs are necessary but not sufficient for change because underlying psychological factors are not addressed along with the program.

Ballard discussed the concept of resilience, and the importance of defining and measuring resilience in order to improve it. Resilience is a term that is used often but there is a “lack of conceptual clarity around it.” A 2011 article found 104 different definitions of resilience in the literature ( Sinclair and Britt, 2013 ). At times, resilience is described as a trait, other times, as a state of being, and still additional authors refer to resilience as a skill set that can be developed. Organizations looking to increase their resilience, said Ballard, need a way to measure resilience so they know if their initiatives are effective. The operational definition of resilience also matters as organizations work with employees not simply to “buffer themselves from the stressors” but to help people bounce back from the stressors they face. Ballard said there is no single answer to how to define resilience, and each organization must decide how to approach their employees within the context and goals of their unique situation.

One definition that is often used, said Ballard, is “demonstration of positive adaptation in the face of significant adversity” ( Britt et al., 2013 ). However, this definition does not apply particularly well to organizational resilience, because most organizations do not face “significant adversity” on a regular basis, and thus changes to resilience cannot be measured. For most organizations, the discussion about resilience relates to day-to-day, low-level work stressors such as overload of responsibilities, lack of clarity around roles, inappropriate expectations, and interpersonal conflict. For these organizations, Ballard said, McEwen's definition of resilience is useful: “The capacity to manage the everyday stress of work while staying healthy, adapting and learning from setbacks and preparing for future challenges proactively” ( McEwen, 2018 ).

APA surveys the U.S. workforce to measure attitudes, opinions, and work experience. Part of this survey looks at resilience using the Brief Resilience Scale, which asks people to rate themselves on six statements ( Smith et al., 2008 ):

I tend to bounce back quickly after hard times.

It does not take me long to recover from a stressful event.

I usually come through difficult times with little trouble.

I have a hard time making it through stressful events.

It is hard for me to snap back when something bad happens.

I tend to take a long time to get over setbacks in my life.

APA's survey revealed that about 15–20 percent of workers have a difficult time getting back to normal after a stressful event. While this is a relatively small number, said Ballard, it can have a significant effect on an organization. A worker's lack of resilience is likely to affect not only his own performance but also the functioning and well-being of his colleagues and team.

In dealing with stress and mental health, many organizations put the emphasis on individual-level interventions, said Ballard. For example, organizations may provide stress management training, brown bag meetings, employee assistance programs, and other interventions designed to help individuals cope with stress. These programs are helpful, said Ballard, but without addressing systems-level issues, they can be a “colossal waste of resources.” Systems-level interventions include initiatives such as aligning hiring and selection practices to the realities of the job, allowing autonomy and control in the workplace, and providing a predictable and healthy environment. When organizations take on the shared responsibility for employees' mental health by creating a supportive environment, they create a culture in which employees can thrive and do their best work.

In addition, said Ballard, a positive work environment makes employees feel they are being treated fairly by their employer, which has far-reaching implications. Ballard explained that when employees do not feel they are treated equitably, they are less motivated to do their best, are less satisfied with their job, experience greater chronic work stress, are more cynical and negative at work, and are more likely to want to leave their job. Clearly, these consequences affect not just the employee but the entire organization. Similar consequences are seen in employees who do not trust their employer or who do not feel valued by their employer.

Another factor that greatly affects the well-being of employees is support from senior leaders in the organization. “We hear all the time that senior leadership support is important,” said Ballard, but “we have never seen data that actually demonstrate it, so we wanted to measure it” to see if it is true. To measure the importance of leadership, APA looked at the differences between employees who said their leaders supported the climate of well-being, compared to those who said their leaders were not supportive. On every measure, supported employees showed more resilience, well-being, and a likelihood to engage in wellness activities. For example:

  • Eighty-six percent of supported employees feel valued, compared to 12 percent of nonsupported employees.
  • Ninety-one percent of supported employees feel motivated at their jobs, compared to 38 percent of nonsupported employees.
  • Fifty-five percent of supported employees regularly participate in health and wellness efforts, compared to 18 percent of nonsupported employees.
  • Seventy-three percent of supported employees believe the organization helps employees develop a healthy lifestyle, compared to 11 percent of nonsupported employees ( APA, 2016 ).

Ballard underscored the importance of these data showing that when senior leaders are supportive of building a positive and healthy work environment, outcomes are “better across the board.”

APA has developed a psychologically healthy workplace model (see Figure 4-1 ). It is not about individual programs or policies, said Ballard, but about “the collection of activities” in which organizations engage. Health promotion and wellness efforts are part of a psychologically healthy workplace, but these efforts interact with and work in tandem with growth and development opportunities, work–life balance, the opportunities to be involved and recognized in the workplace, and good communication. Employee well-being and organizational functioning are affected by these factors that also affect each other, said Ballard. An employee who works at a better functioning, healthier organization is going to have a greater sense of well-being and a more stable mental state, and in turn, healthy employees contribute more to a well-functioning organization.

Psychologically Healthy Workplace Model. SOURCES: Presented by Ballard, April 19, 2018; APA, 2016. Reprinted with permission from APA.


Ballard's presentation emphasized the importance of supportive leadership for health and wellness in the workplace, employee well-being, organizational performance, and organizational resilience. His remarks opened the door for Elizabeth Goldblatt from the Academic Collaborative for Integrative Health, who oversaw the next session. In this session, Forum members and organizational leaders interviewed each other about the varied ways in which they support their employees and how they themselves cope with the stress of working in what Goldblatt called today's “do more with less” model of care. The interviews uncovered insights from leaders as architects of an optimal system, as role models for wellness practice, as models of vulnerability, and as collaborators with other leaders.

Tracy Gaudet, Interviewed by John Weeks

Tracy Gaudet is currently the executive director of the Office of Patient-Centered Care and Cultural Transformation with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), but has long been engaged in the movement toward a focus on Whole Health. She spent 20 years working in integrative medicine at the University of Arizona and at Duke University. Gaudet responded to Weeks's opening of the interview by describing her work within the office she directs as caring for the entire person through a Whole Health lens. Whole Health, she explained, is about designing health care by asking: “If health care were truly about helping people to live their fullest life … what would it look like?” Gaudet said that designing health care in this way is “not just adding a little fluff around the corners,” but about fundamentally changing how health care works. There is an enormous amount of enthusiasm and momentum for this transformation, she said, and it is “largely because the health care professionals and the employees want and need this.” While disease care is still important, she acknowledged, this transformation is about rewiring the system so all aspects of health and well-being are at the center, rather than solely focusing on disease.

She noted that because the VA has always been a multifaceted agency for veterans—for example, providing resources for education and housing—the VA is particularly receptive to adopting this model. In addition, the structure of the VA allows for a great deal of learning about how to implement a Whole Health perspective. Gaudet said that because the VA can study outcomes, costs, and use within its system, it will be able to demonstrate the cost-utility of shifting to a Whole Health model for the private sector.

Leaders as Role Models

John Weeks, a planning committee member, asked Gaudet what she does to maintain her own health and well-being. Gaudet described the core of her self-care is to just “sit on a pillow and breathe.” This practice of meditation allows her to let go of the daily stress, and to focus on breathing rather than chasing happiness, she said. Recently, Gaudet has been centering her meditation on one thought: “What if nothing is wrong?”

In addition to practices such as meditation that can help individuals cope with some types of stress, cultural change within the workplace has the potential of changing the well-being of an organization. Weeks asked Gaudet to discuss one specific action she has taken to change the work culture at the VA. Gaudet said advances in technology have created an expectation that people will be available 24 hours per day. She takes pains to lower this expectation within her team by telling them she does not want to see emails coming in after hours or in the middle of the night. She also tries to model this expectation. Gaudet noted that sometimes it is necessary for her to write emails on the weekend, but instead of sending them immediately, she saves them as drafts to be sent on Monday. Workshop participants shared more ideas for culture change, which appear in Chapter 5 .

As a leader, said Gaudet, it is critically important that she model behaviors and practices that contribute to well-being for several reasons. First, employees are likely to see the work practices of leaders as expectations and strive to meet those expectations. To illustrate her point, Gaudet reiterated the example of leaders who are connected to email 24/7; they set a bar for employees who assume they too must always be ready to respond to their supervisor or colleagues at any hour of the day. Second, leaders can show that well-being is a journey, rather than an end. Gaudet said a “greater gift” to people is showing how to engage in self-care without dictating specific goals. Third, leaders should seek ways to “bake” well-being into the day-to-day practices of the organization. Exposing people to mindfulness and other wellness practices is helpful, said Gaudet, but they are unlikely to use them until they have personal firsthand experience. Gaudet said that she makes an effort to incorporate well-being practices into the workday. She offered personal suggestions from her workplace including starting every meeting with a moment of mindfulness, encouraging random acts of kindness, and having “gratefulness rounds.” The fourth and final modeling of behavior, said Gaudet, is for leaders to help people reflect on their well-being and on practices that promote well-being. She added that when people reflect on how a practice affected their work, they “begin to see the benefits—the personal benefits and the professional benefits—and it begins to shift the culture.”

Gaudet described shifting the culture of well-being at work as similar to rewiring the entire health care system. Instead of focusing on fixing what is wrong, the focus needs to be on proactively cultivating well-being and health. When people find a sense of purpose, and build their life and practices around working toward that purpose, “everything flips,” she said before offering her final thought. Many people focus on innovating and developing new tools and programs, but innovation is not the only answer she cautioned, instead, “We need to do it, to model it, and to put our oomph behind it.”

“If health care were truly about helping people to live their fullest life … what would it look like?” —Tracey Gaudet

Jason Eliot, Interviewed by Kathrin Eliot

Kathrin Eliot, a forum member, interviewed Jason Eliot, who is the chief experience and talent officer at INTEGRIS Health, the largest provider of health care in Oklahoma. Within INTEGRIS Health, J. Eliot is responsible for human resources, clinical education, and community benefit initiatives, and he has sought to find ways of managing and reducing the stress experienced by both employees and leaders within their system. He described taking a “consumer experience” perspective in everything he does. This entails working to find a level of common experience for patients in the INTEGRIS system, which consists of 10 hospitals, 500 physicians, and 10,000 employees. The consumer experience perspective blends nicely with the human resource perspective, said J. Eliot, because creating a consistent culture of well-being across the system benefits patients, providers, and staff alike.

Consumer-Focused Systems Approach

J. Eliot described how he came to use a systems model to address wellbeing within INTEGRIS. The organization wanted to improve well-being, not just for physicians, but for all providers, clinicians, and staff, he said, because the patients' experience is affected by everyone they come in contact with. One of the challenges INTEGRIS faced involved different disciplines focusing on different aspects of practice. Each discipline had its own causes of stress and burnout leading to siloed solutions, rather than looking at how to design the entire system so it would function better. J. Eliot compared the process to the advent of the iPhone. Before the iPhone, said J. Eliot, companies worked in siloes so one company made the very best camera, one made the best calculator, and one made the best phone. Steve Jobs stepped in and said, “No, what you really want to be making is this.” Pointing to his iPhone, J. Eliot continued by saying, this “is all of those in one.” J. Eliot used this example with employees from across his organization to get them to see the value in designing an entire system that would support the patient at the center, rather than optimizing each individual piece.

Another challenge J. Eliot encountered was resistance from providers when he talked about the importance of the consumer experience in health care. “We are not serving hamburgers, we are saving lives,” they said to J. Eliot. To counter this attitude, J. Eliot compared a patient's experience in a hospital to a traveler's experience on a plane. On a plane, he said, travelers' lives are at risk. However, when they get off the plane, they do not thank the pilot for saving their lives. Rather, they compare and choose travel experiences based on the hospitality, food, and general experience. Similarly, patients are now choosing health care based on their overall experience in the health care setting, not on the skills and training and competency of the providers. This can be difficult for providers to understand, said J. Eliot.


K. Eliot noted that J. Eliot focused a lot on other people's well-being in his work, and she asked him to reflect on how he takes care of himself and ensures that he does not get burned out. Like many leaders in the health professions, he responded by describing individual coping mechanisms. “I recently bought 12 acres of land,” he said, so he can spend his days off “fixing fences and chain sawing the trees and feeding the goats.” He admitted that some might not consider manual labor fun, but for him it “feeds [his] soul” and will “extend his work life” because it allows him to relax and recharge. J. Eliot remarked that well-being initiatives often focus on happiness at work, but that relaxation outside of work is equally important. His organization did a survey about employee resiliency, and asked questions about “activation” and “decompression.” Activation questions centered around whether people were happy at work and were passionate about what they did. Decompression questions, on the other hand, looked at whether people could “check out” when they were done with work.

The survey showed that INTEGRIS employees scored high on activation, but that “decompression is where we failed as an organization.” For example, even when employees were off the clock, they were receiving phone calls asking them to cover another shift. J. Eliot said that leaders need to model decompression that would encourage and enable their employees to follow their lead. Self-care—whether it is running, tending goats, or meditating—needs to be a primary focus for leaders. “A leader cannot expect, nor provide, a safe environment for their teams, unless they are at a place where they are at least aware of themselves and at least making steps toward” well-being, he concluded.

Angelo McClain, Interviewed by Sandra Crewe

Sandra Crewe, dean of the Howard University School of Social Work, interviewed Angelo McClain, a forum member and the CEO of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). Previously, McClain served for 6 years as the commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, working on issues of abuse and neglect of the state's most vulnerable children. Crewe interviewed McClain about the stressors of social work in today's culture, as well as the stressors of working within a system as a person of color. Crewe started by noting that social workers are exposed to stress through work with individuals, groups, organizations, and communities, and even sometimes from questions from family and acquaintances. Through this work, social workers bear the stress of others, experiencing “vicarious trauma, historical trauma, secondary traumatic stress, compassion fatigue, and burnout,” said Crewe.

Systems Perspective

Crewe asked McClain for his thoughts on how to improve the health and well-being of the social services workforce, given the pressures and stressors they face. McClain responded that when he became commissioner in Massachusetts, there was a heavy focus on social worker safety—workers were being threatened and assaulted during the course of their work. However, it soon became clear that a broader approach was needed to improve the general wellness of social workers. By looking at wellness from a systems perspective, said McClain, there were obvious links between the wellness of social workers and the wellness of the families and children they served. He explained:

In order for the children to be protected and nurtured, we need to take care of the families. In order for the families to do what they need to do, the social workers need to treat them right. In order for the workers to treat the families right, the supervisors need to treat them right.

McClain noted how this chain of effects goes all the way to the top levels of leadership. The way the commissioner is treated by the governor, he said, can trickle down and affect the well-being of everyone in the system.

Resilience and Vulnerability

Crewe asked the audience to suggest some definitions for resilience. Resilience, she said, is a term that is commonly used but not well-defined. Workshop participants offered definitions, including

  • Honoring our past, being fully present in the moment, and being able to visualize the future
  • The ability to not only bounce back from challenges, but to grow stronger from these challenges
  • To bend, but not break, and bounce back

Crewe said that while resilience is often viewed as a positive attribute, there can be negative effects if health professionals and others “over-rely on resilience as an intervention, and assume that the person will bounce back.” She said that, particularly in social work, there is a tendency to assume that people's professional training will enable them to endure any hardship or stress. When an employer relies on resilience, the employer misses an opportunity to help employees through difficult situations and prevent stress and burnout, said Crewe. In opening the conversation to others, J. Eliot underscored the importance of her last thought adding that it is important to not make resilience another burden on employees. People already are dealing with enough stress and overwork, he asserted. Another workshop participant, Simon Fleming, also shared his perspective in disliking the term resilience . “It implies that people should be able to cope with difficulty,” he said, even in the face of the “ongoing relentless never-ending difficulty” of some health care workplaces.

Fleming's comment resonated with J. Eliot who thought that instead of focusing on resiliency, leaders could focus on restructuring the system so resiliency is only needed in extraordinary circumstances, rather than used as a day-to-day coping mechanism. Another participant, Darla Spence Coffey with the Council on Social Work Education, noted that studies about resilience often look for the extraordinary people who have survived horrific events and coped better than others. She said, “We should not need to be extraordinary to be good health care providers.” Crewe concurred with this idea, and added that “for those who are resilient, there are always those who are not.” Both resilient and nonresilient people are deserving of attention and care, she said.

McClain joined the discussion saying that he compares resilience to water rolling off a duck's back—the stresses and upsetting situations of social work “roll off” a resilient person and do not affect their functioning. People expect social workers to be “tough,” said McClain, and the culture of social work sometimes reflects this attitude, with social workers insisting they are fine even after horrific events. McClain said that as commissioner, he made a point of telling social workers that “it is okay not to be” fine. He told participants about the time he was having a particularly difficult week, and he told his employees that he could “use a hug … or some really good thoughts or some prayers.” He wanted to demonstrate that asking for help is not a moment of weakness, it is a moment of strength. McClain noted that in our society, people tend to believe that “if you ever have a moment of weakness, you are forever perceived as weak.” McClain argued that instead, a moment of weakness should be seen as simply that—a moment. “It was a moment. It doesn't define me,” he said. McClain said it is his job to help his colleagues through their moments of weakness, and hopes they do the same for him.

“Asking for help is not a moment of weakness, it is a moment of strength.” —Angelo McClain

Racism and Sexism

“We are experiencing an upsurge in racism, sexism, and some of the other isms ,” said Crewe. She noted that many clients are the “targets of these isms,” and asked McClain how this affects the stress in the profession. She also asked him to comment on how he is personally impacted by these issues as an African American social worker. McClain responded that while he cannot speak for every African American male, he personally felt a great deal of internalized inferiority. He told participants that when he was in seventh grade, he moved from a predominantly black community to a predominantly white community, and he found himself believing that his white classmates were better than he. Despite becoming salutatorian of his class, these feelings persisted, and it took personal cognitive work to prevent it carrying into his professional work. As a person of color, he feels an obligation “to do right by [his] community.” At the same time, he does not want to use the “tools of the oppressor” to diminish other communities. Crewe added that as a black, female leader, she feels that she is less able to be herself and expose her vulnerabilities. She said that exposing vulnerabilities may deny her some opportunities because of differences in expectations about appropriate behavior for women of color.

Crewe asked McClain if there are specific tools that NASW offers its members to help them deal with these “daily struggles with the isms.” He responded that it starts with the code of ethics, which contain a responsibility to self-care and a responsibility to practice competently. “If you are competent in what you are doing, you are going to get good results,” said McClain, and “you are going to feel good about the work you are doing.” In addition, the professional standards for social work address connections with other professionals, fair salaries, and issues of respect and feeling valued.

Flexibility in Work

Finally, Crewe and McClain discussed the issue of designing flexible and practical work practices to mitigate stress and promote well-being. McClain said that his main goal is doing “things that make sense” for the employees within a given work context. For example, in Massachusetts, as commissioner he ensured that each staffer had access to a laptop. This allowed employees to work from home when the weather conditions were bad, and it permitted flexible teleworking for those who were approved. In his current position, staff are allowed to use a compressed workweek, in which employees work the same number of hours each pay period, but in 9 days instead of 10. McClain said that caring about staff is not necessarily about offering the same options to everyone, but about individualizing flexibility to fit people's unique needs.

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Empathy: harnessing a key skill for organizational resilience and innovation.

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In the face of rapid socio-political changes, the need for empathy in professional settings has never been more pronounced. Empathy, often misunderstood and underutilized, is not just about understanding another's feelings but believing in the validity of their experiences as equally important as our own. This subtle yet profound distinction is crucial for fostering an inclusive, supportive, and effective workplace.

In this piece, we explore the importance of empathy as a key skill, the impact of investing in empathy at work and the barriers to building more resilient organizations.

Empathy is more than a soft skill—it's a critical, strategic asset in today’s complex, diverse, and rapidly changing work environment. As organizations strive to navigate these challenges, fostering empathy can lead to more resilient, innovative, and inclusive workplaces. As we learn from experts like Micah Kessel, Michael Ventura, and Sa-Kiera Hudson, the path to empathy begins with a commitment to redefining and practicing it, ultimately enriching both individual and collective experiences in profound ways.

Kessel, who has extensive fieldwork experience, suggests a paradigm shift in how empathy is perceived and taught. "The best starting point for empathy is redefining it as 'the ability to believe another's experience to be as valid as our own'," he explains. This approach does not demand an impossible standard of understanding but fosters a mutual respect for diverse perspectives.

Image of Micah J. Wonjoon Kessel

Empathy is key to innovation

Empathy is more than just a social nicety—it's a fundamental component of a successful workplace. According to a study by the Center for Creative Leadership , empathetic leadership leads to better job performance. Employees in high-empathy organizations are more engaged, more innovative, and better problem solvers.

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According to Michael Ventura , an empathy researcher and leader, "empathy is vital to creating high-performing teams, inclusive corporate cultures, and optimal product/market fit." This is because empathy goes beyond mere emotional resonance; it involves a deep understanding and willingness to engage in perspective-taking, which are foundational for collaboration and innovation.

Investing in empathy also benefits equity and inclusion efforts at all organizational levels. Sa-Kiera Hudson , a researcher and professor at University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business, notes, "Empathy leads people to engage in prosocial behaviors, which are crucial for teambuilding and overall team output."

Empathy encourages a deeper understanding of colleagues' unique backgrounds and experiences, fostering an inclusive culture that values and leverages diversity. This, in turn, enhances employee satisfaction and retention. A 2018 study by Catalyst found that an inclusive environment, where employees perceived greater empathy from their leaders, correlated with a 61% increase in innovation mindset and up to a 50% decrease in intentions to leave the organization.

Empathy can reduce workplace burnout

The current socio-political climate, marked by polarization and a rise in "otherness," underscores the necessity of empathy. Ventura points out that "Empathy isn't important because it has all the answers, but because it asks the right questions that help us to understand each other more fully." Such understanding is critical for maintaining humanity and respect in discourse, elements that are often lost in conflict-laden environments.

Empathy also eases burnout at work, a significant challenge given more than 80% of employees are at risk this year, according to the 2024 Global Talent Trends report published by Mercer .

The Catalyst report found a relationship between burnout and highly empathic leaders, especially among Arab, Asian, Black, Indigenous, and Latinx women. The report noted, “those with highly empathic senior leaders were less likely to report high levels of general workplace burnout (54%) than those with less empathic senior leaders (67%).”

Furthermore, empathy encourages individuals to act altruistically, promoting a culture where actions are taken for the collective good rather than personal benefit. This is particularly relevant in navigating and mitigating socio-political tensions within the workplace.

Empathy is scalable

The challenge with empathy in the context of work is the belief that empathy can not be easily learned and it can not be scaled. Micah Kessel , the founder of Empathable * says otherwise, backed by CCL’s study that asserts, “Fortunately, empathy is not a fixed trait. It can be learned (Shapiro, 2002). If given enough time and support, leaders can develop and enhance their empathy skills through coaching, training, or developmental opportunities and initiatives.”

Empathy, like any skill, can be developed with practice and commitment. Hudson describes it as a muscle that grows stronger with use. "The more we engage in perspective-taking, the easier it becomes, and the more naturally we can appreciate others' viewpoints," she states. This process requires a deliberate effort to confront uncomfortable truths about ourselves and others, a journey that, while challenging, yields significant rewards in terms of personal and professional growth.

Empathable’s evidence-backed platform is one of the only tools that makes the practice of empathy actionable and scalable.

Unlike traditional training methods which often fall short in building greater empathy because they rely on passive learning techniques, such as lectures or standardized online modules, which do not engage the emotional and experiential aspects critical for developing empathetic skills, platforms such as Empathable leverage interactive and reflective components that allow individuals to practice empathy in real-time, receive feedback, and understand the emotional experiences of others.

Image of Empathable's mobile application.

As the workplace continues to evolve amid global changes, the need for empathy has never been more critical. By prioritizing approaches to empathy that lead to action, organizations not only enhance their current operational efficiency but also position themselves as leaders in creating an inclusive and adaptable corporate culture. This commitment to empathy marks a forward-thinking approach that pays dividends in both employee satisfaction and organizational success.

Empathable believes that redefining and growing empathy is a superpower that can impact every corner of leader, team and organizational capabilities. We enable this superpower by taking your leaders/teams through a series of immersive, authentic, five minute “Walks” in another person’s shoes, and pair those Walks with opportunities for reflection and advocacy practice. Empathable works with each organization to create and group these Walks into themed “Paths” that can address an incredible spectrum of priorities and challenges.

Aparna Rae

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How to build geopolitical resilience amid a fragmenting global order

Geopolitical risk is at the top of the CEO agenda, according to McKinsey’s latest survey  of global economic conditions. In the face of fragmentation and uncertainty, many business leaders are responding by intensifying their focus on resilience.

For the past three decades, going global meant unlocking specialization and scale, developing markets, and creating multinational corporations. In 2021 alone, low interest rates and ample cash led US firms to spend $506 billion on foreign mergers and acquisitions.

But the orthodoxy of globalization is under strain. The latest salvo: multiple disruptions  triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The world seems to be tethered to crisis, or the threat of it. CEOs need to know whether they can still remain global players and, if so, how.

The orthodoxy of globalization is under strain. The world seems to be tethered to crisis, or the threat of it. CEOs need to know whether they can still remain global players and, if so, how.

Looking ahead, the challenges are likely to only become more acute. According to the US National Intelligence Council’s Global trends 2040 report , in the next two decades, competition for global influence is likely to reach its highest level since the Cold War: “No single state is likely to dominate all regions or domains, and a broader range of actors will compete to advance their ideologies, goals, and interests.”

Amid these challenges, the value of resilience is on the rise. That is why McKinsey and the World Economic Forum launched the Resilience Consortium earlier this year . The consortium aims to convene government ministers, chief executives, and heads of international organizations to develop a common resilience framework for public- and private-sector organizations. Leveraging the principles set out in the framework, the consortium can hope to achieve more sustainable, inclusive growth amid external shocks.

To be sure, many global executives have an intuitive sense of where to focus initially to build resilience. However, most are seeking a more rigorous and analytical approach to fostering geopolitical resilience and to creating an enterprise-wide “resilience premium.”

To address the geopolitical risks of the present —and future—leaders should challenge their organizations on six key dimensions of resilience: business model, reputation, organization, operations, technology, and finance (exhibit).

1. Business model resilience

“Organizations that take a serious, systematic, and senior-driven approach to political risk management are likely to be surprised less often and recover better.”

– Condoleezza Rice and Amy Zegart, Political Risk: How Businesses and Organizations Can Anticipate Global Insecurity (Hachette, 2018)

Building business model resilience starts with the board. To exercise effective oversight and decision making, boards need to first develop an understanding of geopolitical developments that are material to the organization.

While most board members will have a “high altitude” perspective on specific risks, individual members may vary in their insight and interpretation, and the aggregate view may fluctuate as board membership evolves. To establish a benchmark for resilience, organizations should take a systematic approach to radiating insights on geopolitical developments and trends to the board and leadership team. This may take the form of analytical products, briefings, or scenario exercises—anchored not on the “what” but on the “so what” and “now what.”

Second, the sheer pace and volatility of geopolitical developments means that boards should not waiver in paying attention. They should dedicate time at each meeting to discussing relevant topics, and convene as necessary in the interim.

One way to focus and structure the board discussion is to identify priority geopolitical risks. Boards could leverage a tiered approach, with tier five denoting markets with the highest level of geopolitical risk and tier one denoting markets with localized risks that can be managed by local leadership and teams.

For many boards, the higher-tier markets are often identifiable. Questions we hear from CEOs on business model resilience in high-tier markets include:

How should I think about my corporate footprint and intellectual property amid geopolitical tensions?

Should I view my operation as a separate region that is carved off to insulate it from geopolitical tensions, or does the lack of direct control itself generate risk?

How should I view my relationship with my joint venture partner in the near, medium, and long term?

How do I manage extraterritorial and/or contradicting legal, tax, or regulatory requirements?

Is there a point where I will be forced to exit, and how I do work backward from that point?

In addition to grappling with these strategic questions in a top-tier market, boards also need to manage the longtail risk of operating across multiple tier-one markets.

To do so requires organizations to establish a mechanism to conduct regular global market scans and to assess in a scorecard fashion across internal teams—legal, security, finance, risk, and communications—the aggregate risk (versus opportunities) of operating in a particular market. These teams can provide recommendations to the board on options to recalibrate market presence or evolve the legal and financial structure of the organization. Their efforts can be coordinated by a dedicated geopolitical risk unit that may sit within an organization’s finance, government relations, legal, risk, strategy, or other teams depending on the organization’s structure.

Understanding and exercising oversight over geopolitical risk is necessary but not sufficient. The board should drive and direct the development of proactive risk-mitigation measures and crisis response with standing updates from teams on execution and material new issues.

2. Reputational resilience

“While there is a rising call for business to be more engaged in geopolitics, the call also extends to CEOs, who are expected to not only be the face of the new geopolitical corporation but they are also expected to shape policy on societal and geopolitical issues.”

– 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer special report: The geopolitical business

A first step to building reputational resilience is to strive for internal alignment around operations connected with geopolitically sensitive markets. In short, organizations need to know what they stand for (and what they are against).

Not every geopolitical crisis will comprise as sharp an inflection point as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in response to which many organizations have chosen to curtail or halt their Russia operations . In many cases, decisions will be less cut and dried. Therefore, organizations need to step back and parse out their stance on individual situations. One way to do that is to create market-specific assessments, or “compacts,” that fuse corporate strategy and risk management. These compacts should be clear in the organization’s priorities in high-risk markets and the criteria on which organizations assess and manage risks. They should also set out how to deploy the criteria in a way that is aligned with operational and performance goals. The risks could come in many guises, including financial, health and safety, legal, political, or reputational—for example, working with the public sector in countries governed by authoritarian regimes.

A clear stance is a prerequisite for the next step in building reputational resilience: developing a coherent values-driven narrative. Indeed, many organizations today are grappling with how to explain not just their stance but their core identity, notably around their presence in markets governed by authoritarian regimes. There is a recognition that the old arguments pegged to globalization and wandel durch handel (change through trade) have dimmed.

Based on our benchmarking of US-based multinational companies, we see three potential postures: proactive—for example, engagement is important for US competitiveness and leadership; reactive—for example, principled engagement with close attention to supply chain integrity; or silent—meaning generally avoiding public statements.

Whichever narrative an organization chooses, it needs to bear in mind that, in the age of instant information, the story told in one market won’t stay there. And a narrative that works in one place could inhibit market opportunities in another, or create sensitivities internally and among regions. In short, there is no silver bullet.

In the age of instant information, the story told in one market won’t stay there. And a narrative that works in one place could inhibit market opportunities in another.

With a clear stance on the core of the narrative, the third step in bolstering reputational resilience is a robust government and public-affairs capability to communicate the narrative to key stakeholders. While the ultimate responsibility of articulating stance and narrative falls on the CEO, government and public-affairs professionals situated across key markets are critical to managing stakeholder relations, cultivating “air cover” in sensitive markets, and providing an escalation mechanism for CEO and leadership-level engagement.

3. Organizational resilience

“Geopolitical tensions are rising, leaving business in the line of fire. Suddenly companies’, and executives’, nationalities matter again. . . . Can we have peace in the company when the world is in turmoil?”

— Financial Times (May 16, 2021)

External geopolitical pressures are increasingly triggering internal pressures. The days of the borderless executive are receding. Indeed, nationality and cultural relativism are coming to the fore in discussions around stance, narrative, strategy, and risk appetite. These discussions can take place on multiple levels: between leadership and teams, regional and local offices, or global headquarters.

Points of internal debate cited by executives include:

  • Are we a global organization headquartered in the United States, or are we an American company that is global in its outlook?
  • To what extent should assessing the reputational risk around a particular project be indexed to a potential response from Western governments and media outlets in a multipolar era?
  • How do we keep a “neutral stance” amid geopolitical tensions? Can a company have no “citizenship”?
  • What kind of diversity of geographical cultural norms and standards is feasible and desirable in a global company when stakeholders (including media and even governments) in many countries increasingly challenge the norms and standards applied in other geographies?
  • How should we reconcile perceived “double standards” around how leadership responds to different social and humanitarian crises across markets, from messaging to charitable giving?

In this context, developing organizational resilience is no longer just about maintaining cultural cohesion. It is also about sustaining a global ethos amid powerful centrifugal forces.

Three approaches can be taken to build organization resilience. First, organizations need to ensure they have inclusive governance structures, from the board to risk committees. These must reflect diverse geographic viewpoints and nationalities. If colleagues do not feel they are part of the discussion on shaping direction, or view discussions as indexed to a particular lens, the struggle for retaining global hearts and minds will be lost.

Second, leaders, starting with the CEO, need to have open and honest dialogues in appropriate fora. These should acknowledge global stresses and the ways they are felt internally, empower colleagues to air their views on stance and risk appetite, and create a common sense of purpose. For example, a critical message from corporate leaders amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is to differentiate condemnation of the Russian government’s actions from support for Russian colleagues.

Finally, organizations need to consider a range of targeted initiatives to promote connectivity and cohesion, from rotating colleagues in and out of geopolitically sensitive markets to sharing views (particularly as COVID-19-related travel restrictions ease), while also ensuring that screening and “insider threat” mechanisms are sufficiently robust.

4. Operational resilience

The aggregation of trade protectionism, the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain crunches, and geopolitical flash points are stress-testing the operational resilience of organizations across the globe.

A priority area of focus has been and must remain protecting and pivoting supply chains. Supply chain operations should consider a range of resilience measures . In the near to medium term, these include creating a nerve center for the supply chain, simulating and planning for extreme disruptions, revaluating just-in-time strategies, and assessing the resilience of one’s suppliers’ suppliers as part of a full look-through approach. Efforts to diversify and build redundancy in supply chains must critically factor in the political risks of entering any new market through a detailed assessment across multiple risk indicators.

To achieve long-term structural resilience, however, organizations should consider measures such as constructing a “digital twin” of the most critical parts of the supply chain, creating and testing what-if scenarios, and ring-fencing a small part of the supply team to focus on building long-term resilience instead of day-to-day supply chain issues.

Supply chain security must be complemented by the physical security of one’s people. From Ukraine and Russia to Ethiopia to Myanmar, organizations in the past 18 months alone have had to secure and evacuate colleagues globally. Considerations range from maintaining redundancy in communication channels, aligning with security vendors on the ground, and keeping a low profile to mitigate any risk of retaliation should an organization decide to exit. As future flash points arise, investing in early-warning systems and extraction plans is essential.

5. Technological resilience

Organizations today are also confronting the strategic challenge of maintaining the global networks of yesteryear amid geopolitical fragmentation. Building technological resilience in this context requires accelerating planning and taking concrete steps in four key areas.

The first is navigating the “splinternet.” Geopolitical tensions, notably between the United States and China, are resulting in the internet splintering into regional variants and technology stacks. Companies need to balance segmenting their networks and differentiated use of laptops and devices across markets with maintaining consistent cross-connectivity and user experience.

Complying with data localization requirements is another area testing global IT architectures, as companies need to think through regulatory and other considerations.

A third area is managing data access. Organizations need to ensure appropriate compartmentalization of data as well as manage external cyber intrusions.

Paying close attention to ensuring resiliency against diverse crises is also essential. This includes the ability to effectively respond to cyberattacks, from recovering data to deploying new technological equipment across markets with speed as required.

6. Financial resilience

At the intersection of geopolitical risk and financial resilience are a number of issues that organizations need to carefully manage on an ongoing basis. These range from long-standing foreign exchange (and expropriation) risks to evolving sanctions risks.

Foreign exchange risks are, of course, well known to many organizations. From a rapid devaluation of currency in Sri Lanka amid the country’s worst economic crisis to controls on withdrawing funds in Myanmar following a military coup, companies have had to and must be prepared to deal with a range of constrictions, from paying their employees to moving funds. With the global economy roiled by inflationary and other shocks, these challenges may continue to manifest. Thinking through crisis protocols in advance and building out an early warning system around macroeconomic challenges are key resilience measures to consider.

Global sanctions and regulatory risks, however, are rapidly evolving and testing organizations, since the escalating application of sanctions and counter-sanctions across multiple jurisdictions is today at the core of geopolitical risk. These measures can be existential in terms of a company’s ability to operate in a market. Compliance with one jurisdiction’s laws can risk running afoul of another’s. Resilience in the face of the growing global weaponization of trade and investment requires not just having a precise understanding of ever-shifting regulatory regimes and a robust compliance capability but also driving a culture of compliance with the organization itself on an issue with no room for error.

“We are more conscious of the risks but don’t have a lot of good ideas.”

For many organizations, this observation by the global head of government affairs of a Fortune 500 company rings true. Yet every organization faces a unique set of circumstances. With that in mind, the above framework is offered as a starting point for internal discussions on how to develop appropriate solutions. The new normal requires a new CEO mindset. That means making geopolitical resilience a strategic priority that will both protect the organization and lay the foundations for long-term competitive advantage.

Andrew Grant   is a senior partner in the Auckland office; Ziad Haider is the global director of geopolitical risk based in McKinsey's Singapore office; and  Jean-Christophe Mieszala  is a senior partner in the Paris office.

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Modernist Elegy, Grief’s Counterpublics, and Critical Death Studies

(For information about Modernism/modernity clusters on the Print+ platform, please see .)

This cluster examines modernist elegy’s engagements with the ruptures and reinventions in the cultural work related to modern death. Wandering the affective edges of civic and religious life since the turn of the twentieth century, elegy has explored the new shapes of despair, hope, care, desire, and metaphysical bafflement at death that animated modern subjectivities. It did so in protean, globally mobile forms. Emerging literary histories of experimental grief-writing and memory-craft shed light on the expressive infrastructures that gathered, or imagined, counterpublics in the context of death and mourning, across many regions, languages, and traditions. These diverse literary histories contribute to critical studies of mortuary practices and political interpretations of dying and dead bodies. The modernity of elegy responds with unique force and feeling to the many ways, around the world, death and dead bodies have been modernized.

The study of global modernist elegy and grief writing supports ongoing, urgent struggles to articulate collective loss and perform public vigil. For this cluster, we invite contributions of 1000-3000 words about modernist elegy and public sphere theory, affect theory, migration studies, necropolitics, secularization studies, memory studies, and more. The study of elegy, and its cousin grief-genres, offers another opportunity to examine transnational cultural dynamics in art and literature. These exploratory essays can focus on a single text, historical event, commemorative act, or community; or may reflect more abstractly on the affects, political dynamics, metaphysical questions, or aesthetic pleasures associated with elegy. For example, contributions might examine the shifting category of grievable life; representations of precarity and care practices; rhetorical experiments in constructing posthumous personhood and other absentees, particularly with apostrophe, metaphor, and metonymy; interrogations of fungibility, social death, and states of exception; elegiac redistributions of the sensible; archival engagements and documentary poetics; anthropocenic vigil, dirge, lament, or mourning; and other topics. Recent critical touchstones include, among many others, Thomas Laqueur’s The Work of the Dead: A Cultural History of Mortal Remains , Revisiting the Elegy in the Black Lives Matter Era (ed. Tiffany Austin Jahan Ramazani’s Poetry of Mourning: The Modern Elegy from Hardy to Heaney , and Journal of World Literature ’s special issue on “Elegy Today: Resistance, Re-Mapping” (v. 8.1, 2023).

As this emerging conversation shows, reading modernist poetry in conjunction with critical death studies raises many questions. How does elegy help us conceptualize changing political economies of dying and corpse disposal? How does modernist elegy articulate liminal ontologies that resonate with emerging kinds of social and political critique? How does elegy mobilize reparative capacities in dispossessed or broken worlds? Who were modernist elegy’s publics, and how did elegy negotiate private and public spheres? We seek reflections on the many responses elegy offers to social crisis, including those associated with decolonization, ecological wounding, racial and caste oppression, gender and anti-queer violence, and other situations calling for resilience and repair. We hope that renewed critical conversation about modernist elegy and related expressive practices around grief and mortuary action will resonate across many research fields.

Please send inquiries to David Sherman, cluster editor, at [email protected] .

Toward Increased Resilience of African Organizations in Times of Crisis: A Literature Review

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thesis on organizational resilience

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  • Ahmed Outouzzalt 3 ,
  • Taoufiq Essili 4 &
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Purpose: The objective is to determine the profiles of resilient companies in Africa, as well as the key factors of organizational resilience. Models for building the resilience of African organizations are highlighted, along with implications for businesses and policymakers.

Design/methodology/approach: The article is written following the approach of a systematic literature review as a research methodology, in order to examine the resilience management of African organizations during times of crisis.

Findings: The results show that the key factors of organizational resilience include adaptability, versatility, the ability to foresee and prepare for crisis situations, and diversity of activities.

Practical implications: The practical implications of the article include establishing a culture of preparation and planning, encouraging cooperation and communication, investing in training and development, promoting business diversification, and policymakers can support the development of business resilience by promoting innovation and economic expansion.

Originality/value: This article provides important contributions to the literature by demonstrating how organizations can manage resilience during times of crisis and how decision-makers can support this effort. It also offers recommendations and perspectives for future research.

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LAREFMO Laboratory, FSJES Agadir, Ibn Zohr University, Agadir, Morocco

Rania Elouidani, Ahmed Outouzzalt & Mustapha Bengrich

LARESSGD Laboratory, FSJES Marrakech, Cddi Ayyad University, Marrakech, Morocco

Taoufiq Essili

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Shani D. Carter

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Sara Bensal

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Elouidani, R., Outouzzalt, A., Essili, T., Bengrich, M. (2024). Toward Increased Resilience of African Organizations in Times of Crisis: A Literature Review. In: Carter, S.D., Bensal, S. (eds) Management and Resilience of African Organizations in Times of Crisis. CBIAC 2023. Springer Proceedings in Business and Economics. Springer, Cham.

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Published : 17 May 2024

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