Resource Development Associates

Creating Resilient Organizations

By Patricia Marrone Bennett, Ph.D.

I have always been fascinated with the parallels between understanding human beings and describing the complexity of organizations, and how like in people, we can foster healthy organizations through mindfulness. A mindful organization is one that adopts cultural norms that promote positive communication practices in groups, between individuals, and especially during times of conflict. In mindful organizations, people feel heard, people trust those that they work with, and people are fully present and engaged in their work.

Lately I have been thinking about how the pace of change in the 21st Century impacts organizational health. Change is stressful, regardless of whether it is positive or negative, as the human brain was programmed long ago to react to change as a potential threat. Just as individuals must develop their capacity to be resilient during times of stress, so must organizations.

Organizations consistently face changes, including shifts in technology, the dynamic nature of human resources, fluctuations in public policy, and economic upturns and downturns. The amount of change that occurs in any one of these areas often feels difficult to keep up with, and yet our need to incorporate change continues to grow. How can we foster organizational resilience to generate the calm energy needed to change as needed?  Here are a few ideas I have about what might help:

  1. We can come to expect change as a constant and ordinary event.
  2. We can choose to think about change, and strategically plan for making change before we react.
  3. We can create organizations where people feel safe about discussing change.
  4. We can identify the opportunities that change provides, as well as the potential threats.

Intentionally practicing mindfulness to develop personal resilience is gaining traction in the U.S. Perhaps we can also turn our attention to developing resilience in organizations through mindfulness.

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