Business Resilience and COVID-19: Webinar Recap

Ohio State’s Risk Institute at the Fisher College of Business continues to adapt and find creative ways of leading the pack and maintaining connections with innovative industry leaders and partners within the community. On June 23, over 100 nationwide businesses collaborated via Zoom for a virtual webinar to discuss Business Resilience.

This topic, which historically has been of paramount importance – in the current climate of the global COVID-19 pandemic – has taken on new meaning and necessitates conversation with a sense of urgency. The disruption, coupled with the expansion of digital commerce and the increasing complexity of supply chains, forces the industry to innovate, consider new tools and processes, and alternative approaches to build resiliency.

In this conversation, industry experts discussed supply chain vulnerabilities and identified ways to build internal and external collaboration to reinforce the enterprise resilience ecosystem.

Speakers included Keely Croxton, OSU Professor of Logistics and Co-Director of Full Time MBA Program and Joseph Fiksel, OSU Professor Emeritus, Integrated Systems Engineering, Former Executive Director, Center for Resilience, and facilitator Philip Renaud, Executive Director of the Risk Institute.

Resilience is seen as the capacity to survive, adapt, and prosper through unpredictable and turbulent times. Business resilience can be seen as an opportunity, during disruption, to bounce forward and find solutions to stabilize communities, supply chains, and resources.

“The increasing volatility, complexity, and ambiguity of the world … calls for a resilience imperative – an urgent necessity to find new opportunities to mitigate, adapt, and build resilience against global risks through collaboration among diverse stakeholders.” – WEF Global Risk Report, 2016

The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) top cascading forces for challenging business resiliency are as follows: Ecological/Environmental, Political, Economic, and Societal. In 2020, specifically, the top-ranked long-term global risk focus was on environmental threats (from storms and tsunamis to wildfires); Pandemics were not only receding as a perceived threat but also were identified as being one of the least likely to occur.

COVID-19 is perceived as a “black swan” event, blindsiding the industry, and serving to highlight the limitations of traditional Risk Management, which has historically followed a more systematic, linear trajectory. This approach illustrates that one can’t necessarily anticipate what risks will arise nor which ones will cause the most harm.

Armed with this information, it’s apparent that adaptation to a changing risk environment needs to be at the forefront of the conversation for risk professionals. Risks cannot always be anticipated, they may be hard to quantify, and adaptations may be needed to remain competitive. We are urged to ask, how can we be proactive, is there a more effective response, what can we do differently and, in turn, leverage our competitive edge?

In an age of global turbulence, resilience is a key competency for corporations. How can a company improve the resilience of its supply chain processes so that it can recover rapidly from unexpected disruptions, assure business continuity, and adapt effectively to changing external conditions?

Croxton identified vulnerability factors exposed by a disruption such as the COVID-19 pandemic. These include turbulence, deliberate threats, external pressures, resource limits, connectivity, and overall sensitivity. In turn, she identifies the concept of capabilities, which act to balance out or diffuse the vulnerability factors.

Let’s take turbulence, for example, COVID-19 would fit into this category, along with natural disasters, political disruptions, currency fluctuations, demand volatility, and/or technology failures. Capabilities that counteract turbulence might include Collaboration (such as risk-sharing with suppliers), Organization (such as creating a problem-solving culture or utilizing a diverse skill repertoire), Market position (for example using existing ties within a community and/or having loyal customers that support the brand).

According to Fiksel and Croxton, a company’s goal is to be in the “zone of balanced resilience”.

The audience is introduced to an innovative purpose-built tool that companies can utilize in their pursuit of reaching this zone of balanced resilience. SCRAM™, developed by researchers at The Ohio State University in collaboration with the U.S. Air force, Dow Chemical, and L Brands, among others, is a facilitated process supported by a computer-based toolkit, that provides a diagnostic assessment of an organization’s preparedness and fitness for coping with turbulent change.

The process offers businesses a unique, comprehensive approach to understand the pattern of their potential vulnerabilities and to design a portfolio of supply chain capabilities that will offset those vulnerabilities. This not only creates shareholder value, but strengthens a company’s capacity to survive, adapt, and flourish – this opposed to the more conventional risk management approach of “steer and adjust.”

The Chinese word for “crisis” (simplified Chinese: 危机) is composed of two Chinese characters signifying “danger” and “opportunity” respectively. Fiksel takes this opportunity to remind attendees that every disruption, no matter how damaging, provides a learning opportunity and a chance to bounce forward.

The Risk Institute will be sponsoring more virtual webinars in the coming months on topics pertinent to the industry, Institute members, and the community at large.

September 22-23 is The Risk Institute’s Annual Conference, featuring two sessions per day from 10:00-12:00 and 2:00-4:00 EST. Registration will be opening soon.

Written by Jack Delahunty in partnership with The Risk Institute at Ohio State’s Fisher College of Business

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