Bouncing Back

Recently, I was interviewed for Columns, the magazine of the Dallas Chapter of the AIA. One of the themes running through the interview was resilience, particularly for design firms.  It got me thinking about what resilience really is, where it comes from, and who has it.

As with many words I come across, even those in common usage, I head for the dictionary.  (I’m one of those old-fashioned people with a large hard-bound dictionary sitting on its own stand.)

The word is from the Latin verb resilīre, meaning “leaping back.”  In modern usage, it’s the power or ability to return to original form after being bent, compressed or stretched.  The ability to recover readily from adversity or crisis.  To bounce back.

Rebounding Cities

There is a lot of interesting work going on these days to create resilient cities.  On the 100 Resilient Cities website, urban resilience is defined as “the capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, businesses, and systems within a city to survive, adapt, and grow no matter what kinds of chronic stresses and acute shocks they experience.”  They identify 7 qualities demonstrated by resilient cities.

What about design firms?  Or even individuals?  Can they be resilient? If we don’t have resilience, or we want more of it, is there a way to “get” it, or to learn it?

I think so.  And age and maturity usually help us to gain more of it.

Get It Together

Here is my own personal recipe for resilience—ingredients to be obtained, or already on hand:

1. Keep the ego in check. 

Be flexible, bending but not breaking. Life is difficult enough without fighting to have our way, or to get credit, in every situation. Getting our ego out of the way can open us to all sorts of brilliant ideas and insights, regardless of whose they are.

2. Nurture relationships. 

Take care of others first, particularly our staff and our clients.  Remember what we said about the importance of culture. Why does this create resilience? Because when we need commitment, help, or support, that’s where it’s going to come from—the people we have cared for and nurtured.

3. Maintain strict financial discipline. 

I’ve written several posts on this subject so we probably don’t need to belabor it here– but it frees us to focus on other things, and it speeds up a return to normalcy after difficult economic times.

4. Have or develop stamina.  

Any worthwhile endeavor requires staying power.  We can’t be easily discouraged—we must keep moving forward in the face of challenges or setbacks.  Panic is not very conducive to creativity or innovation.

5. Adopt a positive attitude. 

Optimism, which perhaps is not readily learned, is a sort of “bounce.”  In the challenges we face, we must still take the risks seriously, but we must also maintain a positive attitude about ultimately overcoming them.  Drudgery is the alternative, and we discourage those around us.

It’s my own very subjective list of attributes (and there may be others), but, yes, I think resilience can be “gotten,” or instilled in the firm.

I love that image from the Latin of leaping back.  It could convey leaping backwards from trouble, or perhaps leaping back into the fray.

Personally, I’ll take this as my cue to leap back into this blog.

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