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RESILIENCY: DO YOU HAVE THE MOST IMPORTANT SKILL EVERY DESIGNER MUST HAVE?

Posted by learntobead on January 2, 2021

HOW RESILIENT ARE YOU AS AN INDIVIDUAL, A PROFESSIONAL, AND A BUSINESS?

Guiding Questions:
 (1) What does it mean and require for you to be resilient as a jewelry designer?
 (2) What does it mean and require for your jewelry design business to be resilient?
 (3) What does it mean and require for you as an individual to be resilient?
 (4) Why is it important to be resilient?
 (5) How do you manage resiliency?

Abstract:

Resiliency is a form of power. It describes our ability to bounce back from overwhelming challenges. It is necessary for survival. Organizationally. Business-wise. Professional-wise. Psychologically. It should be at the top of the To-Do list for every designer and for every design business to be resilient. There are always unexpected disruptions. Sometimes these disruptions are negative; othertimes, positive. All present challenges and opportunities. We want to be able to manage vulnerabilities, absorb stress, recover critical functionality, and continue to survive and thrive when our circumstances change. We want to be able to find, evaluate, negotiate and grab opportunities before they disappear or become unattainable.

Over The Course Of My Business

I have been in the jewelry design business for over four decades. There have been many ups and downs. For most, my business and my skills were resilient enough to keep things afloat until they found their footing again. But not always.

There’s the ever-present business cycle which fluctuates between prosperity and recession. There are changes in fads, fashions and styles, manytimes leaving me with some dead merchandise, a rush to design new styles of jewelry, and the need to change my inventory of parts. A few years, brooches are the hot item; then, all of a sudden, brooches are out and bracelets and rings are in; and, on and on. One color like blue is in, and then it is not. Occasionally, I needed some retraining in new techniques which became popularized. Then there was the slowly increasing shift from brick and mortar businesses to online ones. I had to develop the knowledge and skills to put part of my business online.

At one point, for eleven years, my business was located downtown Nashville in a historic district. It was full of mom-and-pop shops, from rock shops to junk stores to small boutiques and restaurants. It was an exciting place. Too exciting, it turned out. The large corporations decided to move in — Hard Rock Café, Planet Hollywood, Wild Horse Saloon. To accommodate them, the city renovated the district. Part of this renovation included removing over 6,000 parking spaces within an 18-month period. Parking costs skyrocketed from $2–3.00 to $15–20.00. People stopped coming there to shop. Things changed so fast, I had to maneuver out of my lease, and put my business into bankruptcy.

Nashville’s downtown was hit by a tornado. The tornado landed one block from my shop. I could see it from my doorway. It left an unbelievable amount of devastation and debris in the downtown.

The Nashville economy was booming for a while around 2005. Unemployment was below 2%, and I was unable to fill two staff positions.

After the 2008 financial crisis, my business spiraled downwards, at times dramatically, for the next 10 years, before I regained some level of control. When the 2020 COVID pandemic struck, there were 3 months where people had to quarantine themselves, and my business dropped to nothing. For the next year, I had to let all my staff go, and curtail my business hours. I had to maintain a level of inventory and a mix of products which customers wanted with little money coming in.

Then, there are always those moments when you need a good back-up strategy, such as when internet and wi-fi services fail, and you depend on these to process sales and credit cards.

When we think of ourselves as designers, and think about the design businesses we lead or participate in, we need to add resiliency as an important factor — and, I think, the most important factor, — among design sense, creativity, skill-set, marketing and selling, which support our success.

RESILIENCY: What Is It?

Resiliency is a form of power. It describes our ability to bounce back from overwhelming challenges. It is necessary for survival. Organizationally. Business-wise. Professional-wise. Psychologically. It should be at the top of the To-Do list for every designer and for every design business to be resilient.

There are always unexpected disruptions. Sometimes these disruptions are negative; othertimes, positive. All present challenges and opportunities. Changes in fashions, styles, fads and tastes. Changes in technology and equipment. Changes in competition. The world changes whether it is in a direction we want or not. We want to manage these disruptions gracefully. We want to recover nicely. We do not want to fail, but if we do, we want to be able to pull our life, our emotions, our businesses back together again.

Resiliency means doing enough things right. It requires some leadership and self-direction. It requires that we continually reflect on what we do and the positive and negative consequences which follow. We want to be able to manage vulnerabilities, absorb stress, recover critical functionality, and continue to survive and thrive when our circumstances change. We want to be able to find, evaluate, negotiate and grab opportunities before they disappear or become unattainable.

Types of Resiliency

Changes and disruptions affect us on many levels. It affects our businesses and organizations. It affects our professional development. If affects us emotionally and psychologically. As professional designers, we need to come to recognize how resiliency plays out and how it should be managed at each of these levels.

(1) Business and Organization

(2) Professional

(3) Psychological

Whatever level, resiliency should be understood as a process involving all aspects of the organization, the professional self and the individual self.

(1) Business and Organizational Resiliency

The business and organization must be structured in such a way as to anticipate, prepare for, respond to, and adapt to sudden disruptions so as to survive and prosper. They must protect the organization as a whole as well as the people who work within it from the overwhelming influence of risk factors.

This translates into every design business needing to have people and systems set in place so that the business can re-act to a disruption as it occurs, pro-act to prepare for any disruption before they cause a problem and create a solid systems foundation, and post-act to overcome any disruption.

From a business standpoint, re-act resilience (adaptive), pro-act resilience (anticipatory), and post-act resilience (robustness) should be built into the following business prerequisites:

1. Access to designer expertise and skill-sets, particularly if current staff may need to be furloughed or let go

2. Staying competitive by maintaining control over risk and costs, including a functioning accounting system, and efficient/effective management over risk assessment, costs and returns on investment

3. Compliance with client expectations and any government rules and regulations

4. Protecting any intellectual property and data

5. Readiness to respond to changing market conditions, which may involve increased research and development costs, developing new ways in response to new competitors and competitive pressures, and creating new ways of linking up your products with potential buyers

Business Continuity vs. Business Resiliency

When you are scouring the internet for ideas about how to make your business more resilient, you need to differentiate between business continuity and business resiliency. Both involve processes for creating systems of prevention and recovering, dealing with environmental threats to the company. Both deal with preparedness, protection, response and recovery.

Business Continuity focuses on what the organization needs to resist one-time crises. These are things put in place to maintain the capability of the business to continue to deliver products or services at acceptable levels following a disruption. These systems and skill-set foundations are able to continually define the market and market conditions, assess risks and impacts, implement controls, adjust training and awareness, act in accordance, and monitor the evolving situation. Continuity deals with crises one by one as they occur.

Business Resiliency is a more strategic approach for dealing with larger, perhaps more desperate in the moment, crises. Resiliency deals with what the organization needs to continuously anticipate and adjust.

(2) Professional Resiliency

As a professional designer, you also need to have re-act resiliency, pro-act resiliency and post-act resiliency. Your current skill-set may get out of realignment. Your client may have changed their thinking midway through a project. The company you work for may have had to let you go. Some major changes in technology or fashion or style may be occurring. Some of the colors, objects, computer code — you get what I mean — no longer exist, are outdated or sun-set’ed.

You may have hit a wall or some other unknown or unfamiliar situation with a project and are uncertain how to proceed. Your work may have been handed over to another designer, or you may have been required to work with another designer, and you do not share ideas, values and objectives. You need to cope with rejection and dismissal.

Designers depend on the responses and reactions of clients to determine the degree to which their projects are seen as finished and successful. There can be a lot of misunderstanding here. The things they design must be both functional and appealing, and this is not an easy task. Often the design process is one of fits and starts, evaluation and re-evaluation, some tweaking, some adaptation, and some trial-and-error. We design over a period of time, sometimes anticipating that the environment will change and the client may change, but oftentimes hoping these will not.

This is why building in a professional resiliency matters so much for designers. It reduces the uncertainty. It reduces the struggle. It enables us to maintain a positive outlook. It enables us to create, to push boundaries, and to get things done on time, acceptable to the client and the situation.

Buzzanell describes five different processes which professionals use when trying to maintain resiliency –

· Crafting normalcy

· Affirming professional identity and Can-Do attitude

· Securing communication networks

· Putting alternative logics to work

· Downplaying negative feelings and emotions, while reinforcing positive ones

Towards these ends, the resilient designer strives for a high level of literacy in all aspects of design. This involves becoming fluent with all the types of tasks and skills involved. This involves an expectation that learning is a continual, lifelong endeavor. This involves a level of comprehension about what goes together well, and what does not. This involves developing a high level of flexibility — what I call, having a Designers-Toolbox of fix-it strategies handy. And this involves getting very metacognitive — that is, fully aware — of your thinking and motivations.

(3) Psychological Resiliency

As a human being, a major crisis may shake you to the core. It may increase your level of self-doubt and self-esteem. It may make it difficult to cope emotionally or to quickly regain your composure and sense of self-worth. You may lose control or motivation over your design work.

Psychological resilience is when you use your perceptual, cognitive, behavioral and emotional resources to promote your personal worth and assets, and minimize negative emotions and stressors. Psychological resilience allows you to maintain calm, to reflect clearly, and to develop a plan of action, minimizing any future negative consequences. While some individuals can handle greater stress than others, everyone needs to develop within themselves this ability to be resilient.

It is important for any individual to recognize when their psychological resiliency is threatened. People respond to adverse conditions in three ways. Can you recognize these reactions in yourself?

1. Erupting with anger (and it’s important to note that anger follows fear)

2. Imploding with negative emotions, perhaps becoming paralyzed to act

3. Simply becoming upset

Only the third response — simply becoming upset — will allow the individual to become more resilient and promote well-being. They are able to change their current pattern of behavior to better cope with the disruption. Otherwise, coping mechanisms tend to be rejected, ignored, or misunderstood. Psychological resiliency requires that coping mechanisms be intentional, not instinctual.

Resilient designers resort to these psychological resources:

1. Maintaining some emotional detachment from the project, and not taking things personally

2. Seeing critique as a positive resource, rather than a punishing one, and recognizing that you won’t have all the skills or all the answers at all times

3. Reframing things when the initial conceptions of problem or solution no longer serve their purpose, in realistic terms and practical follow-through

4. Recognizing that everything done is a learning experience and a developmental investment in yourself in some way, and never a waste of time and resources

5. Knowing when enough is enough, or, similarly, knowing when to say No!

6. Finding a passion for their work in design which is inspirational and motivational and keeps them engaged

7. Knowing productive things to do during “down-time”

8. Having a sense of self-esteem and self-worth, projecting a confidence in the work, even when that work is questioned or where it is difficult to measure its success

9. Having an ability to communicate and be heard and understood about how problems get defined, skills get applied, and solutions get developed and implemented

RESILIENCY: How Do You Manage It?

One way to visualize how best to manage your resiliency is to group all the activities which need to get done into these four categories:

1. PLAN

2. DO

3. MONITOR

4. ACT

1. PLAN

You create accessible databases, reports, lists and the like about equipment, inventory, supplies and suppliers, costs and revenues, location adaptability or alternative and feasible locations if you have to move things, and backup systems for documents, documentation and inventory supplies.

2. DO

You quantify in dollar terms the risk of loss in inventory, personnel, equipment, and the like. You define and measure

a. impacts
 b. threats
 c. impact scenarios
 d. recovery requirements

3. MONITOR

You put into place ways to monitor risks and responses. You create trigger systems which alert you, preferably with some good lead time, when disruptions are approaching, occurring, cascading out of control, and when responses are stumbling.

You maintain strong networks of communication with colleagues, suppliers, clients, and other related businesses.

4. ACT

Building resilient enterprises and professional lives is not a one-shot, one-time thing. It’s a continual process. It is something you always need to be acting on.

Strategic things to embrace:

Redundancy: some duplication
 Diversity: some variety
 Modularity: some insulation of each thing apart from all others
 Adaptability: some ability to evolve through trial and error
 Prudence: some sense that if anything plausible could happen, it probably will
 Embeddedness: some alignment of business, professional or personal goals with the systems and activities within which these get put into effect

Resiliencies strategies will require leadership and decisiveness in order to be put into place and managed day-to-day.

They may require taking an active, not merely a passive, response in shaping the future environment in order to create and exploit new opportunities to flourish.

They may require greater communication and collaboration with other businesses and professionals, in order to increase a broader, more collective resilience and a greater sharing of risks and rewards.

RESILIENCY: Why Is It Important?

Resiliency is a company’s, a professional’s and/or an individual’s capacity to absorb stress, recover critical functionality, and thrive as circumstances change.

Resiliency is especially important these days because of how rapidly global markets, distributional channels, technology, access to resources, and skill-set foundations change or develop, get disrupted, and redevelop.

Too often, designers and the businesses they work for focus on short term results — the number of designs sold, the number of current and new clients, the returns on investments. And too often, the paramount concern is stability and stasis. There is too much devoted to making things predictable. There is too much of a Have-Design-Will-Travel mentality.

Resilience requires a multi-timeframe outlook — short, medium and long. There most likely will need to be some inefficiencies in the short term so that the long term challenges are not too disruptive. It is highly unlikely that the design which worked today will still be workable tomorrow. Resiliency anticipates that things will be unpredictable, changeable, unknown, even unlikely. Significant consequences will present themselves, but you will not know it until you are faced with them, and you will have to adapt to them and recover, in order to survive.

Managing for resilience will require a mental model of business which embraces complexity and uncertainty and the here-to-fore unidentified. It must interrelate all the functional human and technical systems which come to bear during any design process.

On the personal and professional levels, resiliency can keep you from feeling helpless and paralyzed. It can motivate you to keep going, be decisive, and overcome obstacles. It can provide more clues to you, faster, more readily, more frequently about how to approach the unknown or unfamiliar, be flexible, and fix things.

A more resilient organization or individual can provide a competitive edge over other businesses or individuals unprepared to meet various contingencies. You can become better resistant to withstand any initial shock. You can be more agile in your responses. You can respond and recover smarter and more rapidly.

RESILIENCY: How Do You Become More Resilient?

There is no single strategy for making organizations, professionals or individuals more resilient. However, we can know those things which enhance resilience and to which you can work into your own business, professional or personal life.

To become more resilient, basically, you need to seek advantages in adversity. Towards this end, you will need to continually invest, in an integrated and coordinated manner, with concurrent attention to both management and creativity requirements, in these five things:

(1) Infrastructure (technology, inventory, accounting systems, displays, systems structure and analysis)

(2) Knowledge (technical skills, marketing and other business skills, risk assessment, criticality, reflection, metacognition, prediction, anticipation, leadership)

(3) Relationships (establishing trust, credibility, legitimacy, visibility, ways to communicate and dialog, collaboration, ways to sell)

(4) Assessment (measuring fluency, flexibility, adaptability, diversity, capability, cost/benefits, redundancy, modularity, embeddedness, prudence, and critical responses)

(5) Attitude (always designing with the end user in mind, and developing a change- and developmental-mentality and culture within your organization or professional network)

A continual series of incremental investments, implemented as a framework and as an integrated strategy, will usually be more cost-effective in the long run than any one-shot response to a sudden and overwhelming change or disruption.

____________________________________

FOOTNOTES

Bergman, Megan Mayhew. “Why people in the US south stay put in the face of climate change,” The Guardian, 1/24/2019, 2019.

Bruce, Christina. “What does it mean to be a resilient designer?” 10/12/2019.
 As referenced: 
 https://uxdesign.cc/what-does-it-mean-to-be-a-resilient-designer-90bf81d110cf

Buzzanell, Patrice M. “Resilience: Talking, Resisting, and Imaginging New Normalcies Into Being,” Journal of Communication. 60 (1): 1–14, 2010.

Buzzanell, Patrice M. “Organizing resilience as adaptive-transformational tensions,” Journal of Applied Communication Research. 46(1): 14–18, 1–2–2018.

Fredrickson, B.L.; Branigan, C. “Positive emotions broaden the scope of attention and thought-action repertoires”. Cognition & Emotion. 19 (3): 313–332, 2005.

Cocchiara, Richard. Beyond disaster recovery:

becoming a resilient business. An object-oriented framework and methodology

IBM Global Services, October 2005.

Goodman, Milo. Adaptability as the key to success in design. 1/13/18.
 As referenced:
 https://medium.com/gymnasium/adaptability-as-the-key-to-success-in-design-ea64c1ed4044

Masten, A.S. “Resilience in individual development: Successful adaptation despite risk and adversity” pp. 3–25 in M. Wang & E. Gordon (eds.), Risk and resilience in inner city America: challenges and prospects. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum, 1994.

Padesky, Christine A.; Mooney, Kathleen A. “Strengths-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A Four-Step Model To Build Resilience,” Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy. 19(4); 283–290, 6/1/2012.

Reeves, Martin; Whitaker, Kevin. “Strategy: A Guide to Building a More Resilient Business,” Harvard Business Review, 7/2/2020.

Reich, John W.; Alex J. Zautra; John Stuart Hall. Handbook of Adult Resilience. Guilford Press, 2012.

Siebert, A.I. The Resiliency Advantage. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, (2005).

Wagner, Mindy. Bounce Back: Become A More Resilient Designer. 1/30/2013.
 
 Zautra, A.J., Hall, J.S. & Murray, K.E. “Resilience: A new definition of health for people and communities”, pp. 3–34 in J.W.Reighc, A.J.Zautra & J.S.Hall (eds.), Handbook of adult resilience. NY: Guilford, 2010.

__________________

Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:

Disciplinary Literacy and Fluency In Design

Backward Design is Forward Thinking

How Creatives Can Successfully Survive In Business

Part I: The First Essential Question Every Designer Should Be Able To Answer: Is What I do Craft, Art or Design?

Part 2: The Second Essential Question Every Designer Should Be Able To Answer: What Should I Create?

Part 3: The Third Essential Question Every Designer Should Be Able To Answer: What Materials (and Techniques) Work Best?

Part 4: The Fourth Essential Question Every Designer Should Be Able To Answer: How Do I Evoke A Resonant Response To My Work?

Part 5: The Firth Essential Question Every Designer Should Be Able To Answer: How Do I Know My Design Is Finished?

Doubt / Self-Doubt: 8 Pitfalls Designers Fall Into…And What To Do About Them

Part 1: Your Passion For Design: Is It Necessary To Have A Passion?

Part 2: Your Passion For Design: Do You Have To Be Passionate To Be Creative?

Part 3: Your Passion For Design: How Does Being Passionate Make You A Better Designer?

______________________

I hope you found this article useful.

Also, check out my website (www.warrenfeldjewelry.com).

Enroll in my jewelry design and business of craft video tutorials online.

Add your name to my email list.

Visit Land of Odds online (https://www.landofodds.com)for all your jewelry making supplies.

Subscribe to my Learn To Bead blog (https://blog.landofodds.com).

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