There used to be a mug for sale at Counter Coffee on which was printed, “Falling down is part of life. Getting back up again is living.”
After the popular and lucrative (for the Chamber of Commerce) Summer Fest “fell down” three years ago, many of us fell into a season of mourning what seemed like the permanent passing of a good thing.
Four years ago Summer Fest was a happening. The Chamber made a lot of money to support other events like the Christmas Walk; Madison Street merchants got a great deal of exposure; and our town took pride in pulling off a big event that was the envy of our neighbors.
But then a year or so ago, some Chamber members took off their mourning clothes, and started to imagine a way to get back up after the fall. That new way is called MusicFest, and as you could see in last week’s Review it’s not the same event with a new name but a creative response which, to my mind, is a good example of what Judith Rodin is talking about in her book, The Resilience Dividend: Being Strong in a World Where Things Go Wrong.
Rodin defines resilience as “the capacity of any entity — an individual, a community, an organization, or a natural system — to prepare for disruptions, to recover from shocks and stresses, and to adapt and grow from a disruptive experience.”
When the Chamber contracted with Star Events to run MusicFest, everyone — the Chamber, FPPD and Star — agreed that we needed to learn from the past and greatly enhance security. That’s why you’ll have to be patient with limited access points and an actual enclosure walling off the perimeter.
“We live in a world that is defined by disruption,” Rodin counsels. “We need to take action, and we need to do so in anticipation of disruption, in advance of shocks, in preparation for stresses — not after they have started to wear us down.”
That’s a word to the wise for individuals as well. Don’t put off the mammogram or the colonoscopy or the drawing up of your will any longer. My father used to preface any conversation with me about his dying by saying, “If anything happens to me …” Not if. When.
Another characteristic of resilient entities, says Rodin, is diversity, i.e. “the entity has different sources of capacity so it can successfully operate even when elements of that capacity are challenged.” That is, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. One restaurant owner told me he buys his produce from more than one vendor. If one goes out of business, you’re not left without lettuce and tomatoes. If one starts supplying a bad product, you have options.
The Chamber board, to its resilient credit, responded to the absence of its major fundraiser by coming up with the Wine Walk and partnering with the OP-RF Chamber on its annual golf outing.
Another trait of resilient people and organizations, Rodin says, is that they’re adaptive. Instead of rigidly holding onto the “way we’ve always done it,” resilient entities have “the capacity to adjust to changing circumstances by developing new plans, taking new actions, or modifying behaviors.”
By hiring Star Events to run the show, the Chamber board showed a willingness to try something new. To those who protested that “we wouldn’t make as much money,” the Chamber leadership replied in effect, “The old way wasn’t working, so let’s try something new and see what happens.”
Resilient entities, writes Rodin, are integrated, i.e. they have “coordination of functions and actions across systems, including the ability to bring together disparate ideas and elements, work collaboratively across elements, develop cohesive solutions, and coordinate actions.”
The Chamber board modeled this characteristic by consulting the FPPD, the fire department, Madison Street merchants, a representative of the church community and the park district. Not every one of those players was as enthusiastic about the planned event as others, but their feedback allowed for tweaking the plan. And the fact that they were asked helped them feel better about the business or the attendance they might lose.
Resilient organizations and individuals, finally, are self-regulating. They can regulate themselves “in ways that enable them to deal with anomalous situations and disruptions without extreme malfunction or catastrophic collapse. They can fail safely.”
That is the characteristic I find most spiritual.