A Skimmer's Guide to the Latest Business Books
The book: Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back, by Andrew Zolli and Ann Marie Healy; Free Press.
The big idea: Given that the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune are more or less unavoidable, organizations and other systems should be designed to recover quickly from dramatic disruptions.
The backstory: Zolli curates PopTech, a forum about innovation. Healy is a playwright, which accounts for the book's effective use of metaphor to explain complex ideas.
Forget the tests of time: Complex systems-;the authors use the banking system and coral reefs as examples-;are often able to withstand repeated shocks. Zolli and Healy urge leaders not to assume that this can continue. With every assault, the margin for error narrows.
If you read nothing else: Chapter Six includes a fascinating discussion of risk compensation, which holds that individuals have set comfort levels with risk, and when circumstances start feeling too safe, they take greater chances to return to those levels. The authors propose that when leaders fail to define how risks should be assessed, employees revert to often dangerous assumptions about how much risk is allowable.
Rigor rating: 8 (1 = Who Moved My Cheese?; 10 = Good to Great). The lengthy notes section offers multiple sources for facts. The authors trekked through the Palestinian territories to reenact an experiment aimed at repairing trust among fractious parties.