17. Rebound Model of Resilience

1 November 2020
How do people, teams and organizations increase their capacity to rebound from adversity?

Key Definitions

All people, teams and organizations regularly face challenging conditions. The more severe these difficulties and the longer they persist, the more taxing it is to deal with them. Faced with intense hardship, many break under the strain and simply give up.

Robustness is the quality of not cracking under pressure, but being able to shoulder a heavy burden. Yet sometimes the adversity encountered is extremely grave and you are knocked to the ground. Resilience is the quality of picking oneself up again. It is the capacity to recover after experiencing misfortune, bouncing back instead of accepting defeat.

Conceptual Model

The Rebound Model of Resilience suggests that to bounce back after hitting a ‘speed bump of severe adversity’ three ingredients are required – an answer to what, how and why. First, you need the means to rebound (capital) – to get back on your feet you are going to need things (what). Second, you need methods to rebound (capability) – you need to know which way to get back on your feet (how). Third, you need the mentality to rebound (commitment) – you need to want to get back on your feet (why). All three ingredients are crucial, whether it involves a person, a team or an organization.

Key Elements

The three key ingredients of resilience are further broken down into six factors:

  1. Capital: Means to Rebound. Recovering from adversity starts with having the right means at your disposal. The richer the asset base that you can tap into, the larger the chance that the key input needed to pick yourself up will be available. This capital that you can use consists of two general categories:
    1. These are the means owned by the person, team or organization, such as money, facilities, information, knowledge and skills. Being able to pay the bills during troubles is crucial, but so is having a variety of skills that can be employed.
    2. Network. These are the relational means that can be used, such as contacts, reputation, trust and goodwill. Retaining other people’s confidence when things get rough can be key, even more so when these contacts are willing to give you credit and support.
  2. Capability: Methods to Rebound. Even with all the necessary means available, bouncing back doesn’t happen by itself, but requires a particular approach. You need to have a constructive way of dealing with the adversity. This is actually a capability that can be built up over time. The two key elements of this rebounding capability are:
    1. Control. To rebound you need to take ownership of the process, instead of hoping that things will turn out for the best. The locus of control needs to be internal, not external. You need to take responsibility for steering yourself out of the difficulties.
    2. While ‘taking control’, you have to accept that you are not ‘in control’ of the challenging circumstances. To rebound you have to search for potential solutions, be willing to experiment, learn what works and switch to alternatives where helpful.
  3. Commitment: Mentality to Rebound. When misfortune strikes, it is often your spirit that takes the biggest blow. To be truly resilient you need to have the will to get up again. This resolve to pick yourself back up generally comes from two types of emotional commitment:
    1. Determination is commitment to a goal. When you really want to reach something, you find the courage and resolution to press on, despite the disheartening circumstances. You find energy and stamina from the prospect of achievement.
    2. Solidarity is commitment to a group. When you feel loyalty to other people and really want them to prosper, you find the strength and motivation to support them as best as possible. You find energy and stamina from being in it together.

Key Insights

  • Resilience is about rebounding from adversity. Resilience is not about being strong (robustness) or being flexible (adaptability), but about the capacity to bounce back after taking a considerable hit. It is about not staying down, but getting up again.
  • Resilience is a quality of all systems. Every system can experience adversity, whether an individual, a team, an organization or even a society. For each the question is whether they have the intrinsic capacity to overcome their difficulties and recover, or whether they get stuck, sink deeper into despair or even give up entirely.
  • Resilience is about being able to bounce back. The ability to rebound is rooted in having the right means and methods available. The right means (capital) consist of internal resources and an external network. The right methods (capabilities) consist of knowing how to take control, while at the same time being agile in finding a way out of the difficulties.
  • Resilience is also about wanting to bounce back. But to rebound you have to be willing, not only able – your need the right mentality (commitment). You need to be motivated by determination (commitment to a goal) and/or solidarity (commitment to a group).

Resilience can be built up. Resilience is not a fixed quality, but a capacity that can be enhanced over time. Capital can be acquired, capabilities can be learned and commitments can be strengthened. When managers think about organizational development, they need to go beyond optimising effectiveness and efficiency, to include improving resilience.

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