2011/03/12 11:00 C.S. Holling, Kathleen Sutcliffe, Andrew King, Panel on "Resilience and Business", Resilience 2011

Resilience 2011 --  Resilience, Innovation and Sustainability:  Navigating the Complexities of Global Change -- Second International Science and Policy Conference -- March 11-16, 2011

This digest was created in real-time during the meeting, based on the speaker's presentation(s) and comments from the audience. The content should not be viewed as an official transcript of the meeting, but only as an interpretation by a single individual. Lapses, grammatical errors, and typing mistakes may not have been corrected. Questions about content should be directed to the originator. The digest has been made available for purposes of scholarship, by David Ing.


Theme on knowledge, innovation, and social-ecological learning

Chair Gail Whiteman, Erasmus, organizational theorists has been working with the Resilience Alliance

  • Panel started in Stockholm 2008, in conversation with Buzz Holling
  • How to bring business academics into this setting?

1. Business, ecosystems and tipping points - C.S. Holling

2. Organizing for Resilience - Kathleen Sutcliffe, U. Michigan

3. Industrial Resilience - Andrew King, Dartmouth College

[Buzz Holling]

Where the ideas for resilience work came from?

  • Published version is public
  • Personal:  involved organizations

Basic idea in the Panarchy book

  • Cycles of growth in an ecosystem in organization (expecting business, although most experience is in institutes)
  • Adaptive cycle and Schumpeter creative destruction with brittleness and collapse
  • Back loop reorganization and reinvention
  • Applied to ecological system

When the collapse occured, could flip into extinction, or start in the new cycle, or in panarchy the structure would be transformed

  • More and more, the focus has been on the transformation process
  • Personal experience in 6 institutions, all following this pattern:  not businesses, they're international, university and government
  • Was at each one, when in beginning, exploration, 5 to 8 years of productivity before rigidity
  • Structures evolve across scale: from climate change in artic, through artic oceans (connecting to northern Pacific and Atlantic), through Inuit communities in Alaska (Ernie Cermak)

Dramatic changes in Arctic, traced to changes in mouths of rivers

  • How to deal with this?
  • How to set up the panarchy experiment:  all communities in that line, from scientists down to aboriginal communities, in an concerted effort to monitor the whole system
  • Canadian Three Oceans program:  most people just think about Arctic, not three
  • Monitoring acids, currents, turbidity, information from Inuit never heard before
  • Had the philosopher's cruise: Coast Guard with 20 to 25 people at the captain's table, talk about work
  • e.g. Jim Balsillie, will get tablets involved in programs
  • Gail went with Brian Walker, great discussions
  • Now a proposal for Arctic down to Inuit, to answer the question:  how can we detect the impact of climiate change that will influence the lifes of people in these small communities, and international
  • The mosquito fleet
  • Northern command:  the Rangers, Inuit who know the land, water, and ice -- committed to be part of the mosquito fleet
  • On ski-doo, 2 to 3 weeks ago, equipped with measures
  • 5 communities on the west coast
  • Instruments like collected on a trawler, but on a small device for $25K, each village will have at least one boat

Also anecdotal data:  seal hunter noticed 71 seals caught were different, they sunk because they were skinny and full of shrimp

  • Possibly flip
  • Changes in plankton and nano-plankton
  • Concern about what gives signals of sudden flips, and where they come from

Would like some help from businesses

Where resilience is going

  • Don't know if business organizations are the allies or the enemies

[Kathleen Sutcliffe]

Organizing for resilience

Case: Baltimore and Ohio railroad museum

B&O was first railroad established in U.S.

  • Roundhouse 1827
  • Abandoned in the early 1900s
  • In 1950s and then 1990, became a museum, with world's most complete artifacts, 5 buildings
  • Museum was limping along
  • In 2000, hired a new executive director, needed to make this a money-making proposition, as they were losing $200K to $400K per year
  • Decided to do a recreation of the fair of the iron house, to be held in 2003

Feburary 2003, worst snow

  • Ceiling fell in, 6 inches of water
  • Half of roof came down, artifacts damaged
  • To date, had spent $1M for fair
  • Quick decision to rebuild, in 6 weeks realized that whole roof had to be rebuilt
  • Although had insurance for roof, collection wasn't covered by insurance ($10M)
  • A few months before, replaced upper roof, then had a fire
  • 22 months later, reopened

How were they capable of being resilient?

Defining resilience:

  • Need some standard of performance
  • A capacity or characteristic of individuals or organizations to maintain positive adjustment -- or even to thrive -- under adverse conditions.

Resilience is much more ordinary that people think

  • Ability to deal with adversity is largely dependent on the structures that have been developed before the chaos arrives
  • How does that happen?

Lots of data, grounded theory, then talked to people

Resilence works with two things:

  • 1. Efficacious beliefs
    • Wept
  • 2. Capability to improvise
    • Practice before chaos

How resilience is built

  • 1. Growth
    • Started with volunteers, had to get more resources
    • Develop
  • 2. Competence (honing abilities)
  • 3. Efficacy

Courtney Wilson managed the internal emotions of the employees, and external emotions of the community

Plans: until faced with adversity, don't know what can do

  • Aaron Wladawky: ability to act without knowing in advance

[Andrew King]

Had written an homage to Holling and Ostrom

1985, was a controls engineer, smartest man gave him book on Environmental Controls


  • Is it easy to be green?  Does it pay for business, in a win/win?
    • No free lunch, but maybe a free cracker.
  • Can companies get together and organize so that it's easy to be green

Skill isn't in resilience

Long history of connections between social sciences and ecology

  • Malthus
  • Schumpeter

Recently, managemet science has borrowed

  • Ecosystems (for platform research)
  • Keystone species for competitive analysis
  • Industrial ecology, replanning waste

Industry life cycle:

  • e.g. auto industry, 1890, people don't know what a car is (steam, electic, tiller or wheel)
  • Era of ferment
  • Then some companies know what a car will look like:  era of growth
  • Dominant design, drives out firms
  • Finally, era of incremental change

Similarity between Holling view and industry life cycle

Parallel deveopment of adaptive cycle

  • Repeats of creative destruction


  • Cross scale interactions: products versus industries
  • Rigidity and poverty traps:  e.g. photographic film
  • Novelty as a response and for creative destruction

Meagre citation in top 6 management journals

  • Holling has only been cited 6 times
  • MacArthur has only been citied 10 times (even longer)
  • Resilience as a keyword only twice


  • Cycling, with scale, e.g. Dutch Disease Economics
  • Feedback and cycling
  • Management doesn't think about controls
  • Have done a lot of think about innovation
  • Archival data

MIT:  Fishbanks simulation game

  • Students play with an open access resource

Limitations of analogies with management research

Alliance for Research on Corporate Sustainability, Third Annual Research Conference, Wharton, May 9-11, 2011


Public sector: issues, how to get beyond methodology so know that are resilient now, what interventions can be

[Buzz Holling]

  • Resilience in alliance:  systems have multi-stable states, and can flip from one system to another
  • Then need another word:  transformation, when in a situation where the flip/jump occurs, and entity reorganizations in a different way
  • Some whole structures transforming
  • Resilience, transformation, and cross-scale
  • Interest now in transformation, and cross-scale
  • Listed dominant transformations on radio and tv, so we're now in a global back loop:  peak oil, tar sands, financial collapse with debt, U.S. healthcare legislation, U.S. supreme court removing control on lobbyists; Goldman Sachs as immoral; Arizona immigration law, Haiti and New Orleans as poverty traps; Catholic Church child abuse; transformation of northern forest harvests to protect huge scale boreal forests; climate change skepticism
  • Globalization of changes
  • Mosquito fleet as an experiment: arctic council of 8 nations, Canadian survey, down to communities around North America
  • Want to collaborate at cross-scales, because don't understand that

[Andrew King]

  • Controls issue:  modeling and simulation helps, have people play the game

[Kathleen Sutcliffe]

  • What's the density of activity in the organization?
  • Know some public sector organizations are dead, some other living
  • Could do network connection analysis
  • Think that fire-fighting improves resilience:  closure
  • Plasticity, in brain research, think it contributes to resilience, need to increase repertoire

Constant coping, small perturbations, routines to deal, as opposed to taking to a better place

[Buzz Holling]

  • Traps:  found 5
  • Helen Allison, study of wheat growing area in Western Australia, destroying themselves, have removed all of vegetation, the water table is rising, locking selves in
  • Resilience isn't enough:  transformation and cross-scale

[Kathleen Sutcliffe]

  • Tushman extending March's exploitation, as a way of getting out of trap

Business concerns about resilence

[Andrew King]

  • Greening
  • Most successful business book is Clayton Christensen, on Disruptive Innovation

[Kathleen Sutcliffe]

  • Organizational resilience is important in its own right, e.g. power grid

Changes in financial industry?

French government, with panarchy, recommend a simulation model?

Organization and resilience?

[Andrew King]

  • Divide between environmental scholars and economic scholars

[Buzz Holling]

  • Economists won't recognize a lower equilibrium that will flip the state
  • Economists won't include fewer number of variables:  more than 3 variable, maybe 5 to 6; while economists are dealing with 2 or 3, but then don't get nonlinear dynamics