Survival Re-examined

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Each member of the MAIM Class of 2014 shares their individual experiences of innovation in the lead up to our Degree Show Exploiting Chaos: Innovation in the Making. The Narrators like Valerie Duenas explore the multifaceted art of language to frame, and communicate, relevant and stimulating connections between different ideas.

Survival has been altered in the contemporary world, with environments quickly shifting, advancing and becoming more complex.
Building on a foundation of evolutionary frameworks and organisational culture, I set out to re-examine business survival via resilience.


The power to adapt deserves priority in any type of organisational transformation. In critical periods of fast paced shifts, many organisations fail to prioritise adaptation and fluidity. There exists a common neglect of internal knowledge transfer and process flow weighing down internal efficacy and the ability to learn.


My research started by exploring organisational characteristics that make companies successful in the context of today – innovation abilities, sustainability, and flexibility. I saw that the pillars of a company’s success, or lack thereof were firmly rooted within an organisation’s culture, its design of process and the ‘organic-ness’ of fluid communication. With this in mind, I set out to use science’s process of anatomisation to create a framework for building a culture of resilience.

Resilience in simplest terms is about elasticity. Elasticity in this case is a result of the ability to adjust, learn, retain and maintain. The mechanisms and developments of a company can be compared in many ways to the evolution of life – the struggle for existence and the propagation of process. By turning to a scientific understanding of the Natural World, more specifically the mechanisms of evolutionary perspectives, organisations can emulate processes that stimulate the ability to be resilient.


In unveiling that evolutionary approaches can frame new waves of business discourse, there arises the opportunity to explore catalysing forces that support its pragmatism. Here, aiming to advance from theory towards practicality, my research found the integration of Internal Consulting Units (ICUs) to be a prime stimulant in establishing and maintaining resilience. Internalising agents of change who aim at facilitating fluidity within an organisation can lead to self-propagating innovation and the embedding of skills that can become quickly available in times of crisis. Using methods of hybrid consulting practices and understanding basic aspects of science’s incremental methodology, organisations can begin to yield the ‘relatively fittest’ system needed in competitive environments.


In business turning to evolution, the effort to see business as a human affair brings us closer to understanding the complex systems of organisations and how to encode experience into learned skills – allowing organisations to quickly adapt. And, with the use of facilitation units governing process and spurring innovation, organisations can begin to create their own pools of knowledge in-house, cultivating a culture that will be better equipped to thrive when others stumble.


My advice to companies is to nurture an appetite for learning. This involves setting out to get inspired from other disciplines and learning from seemingly unrelated industries. These skills once embedded have the capacity to continuously catalyse innovation and become readily available defence tools. The ability to exist will then no longer be a struggle, but an ever-shifting strength.


Finally, companies must always remember that business is a human affair, an affair that involves interaction and integration. In order to sustain a culture of resilience all that is learned must not only be retained, but maintained. It will be the hands of an organisations’ people and their behaviours that cultivate this culture.


To learn more about organisational resiliency and Valerie’s research, please join us at the MA Innovation Management upcoming Degree Show, Exploiting Chaos: Innovation in the Making, from the 18-22 June.