COFES 2013: Design for Resilience in Products and Strategy
We need to build resilience into our products. And into our businesses.
In the context of materials, resilience is the ability to spring back quickly into shape after being deformed or stressed in some manner. In the context of design, resilience is the ability of a product or project to withstand and adjust to conditions that were outside its original design scope. In some cases, changes are due to unanticipatable shift in the context of use; for example, the use of a quadcopter toy as a professional surveillance tool by police, or the use of an old missile silo as a home. In other cases, shift happens in the market resulting in the demise of products not resilient to that shift. Think buggy whips, drafting boards, or high-rise low-income housing projects that are now being torn down because they can’t be repurposed.
Businesses need to be resilient, too. Many firms have failed due to lack of flexibility when the conditions they have been optimized for have changed. And often optimization comes at the expense of resiliency: An extremely lean operation has no room for failure of even a single aspect of its operation. What is the right level of balance between optimization and efficiency, and resilience?
Before we had a focus on global sustainability, before the world had to support so many people, we could afford to pay less attention to resilience of products and just toss them when they couldn’t adapt. Now, as supplies are constrained, cost-of-goods has risen, and we are competing on a global level, we can’t afford to ignore the strategic role of the resilience of our products, projects, and businesses.
Last COFES, we explored the role of risk in design, impact of time-horizon, and what actions we can (or should) take in response. For COFES 2013, we take the next step and examine the risks imposed by a world increasingly in flux, and take on resilience as a strategic consideration.
The domain of COFES is the realm of software for design and engineering.
Our customers are those that create the world around us. They design the roads and bridges, the buildings we live and work in, the things we use and see around us.
The place to impact all of this is at the planning, design, and engineering stage. It’s where the leverage is. Our customers have the leverage to change the world.
The COFES community provides the tools to these people who have that leverage.
We’ve been able to absorb much change in the past. But today, with increased population, increased infrastructure, and increased global interdependencies, we have lost much of our flexibility to absorb such change without hardship. The reasons for this are understandable and to be expected. With our larger population we have less room to maneuver and have significant investments in infrastructure – all a result of unconstrained growth without concern for long-term consequences.
What’s worse, we may be having an impact that is resulting in such change coming more quickly – within a lifetime rather than over generations.
Change will come. And it’s not just weather that we have to adjust to. Changes will be painful to many – deadly to some; others will reap unexpected windfalls. The balance will shift.
What can we do about it? We can choose not to ignore it. We can think about longer term implications of our decisions and have longer term horizons for our planning.
We provide the tools to the people who have the leverage to implement change. We can help them innovate better.
At COFES, we ask “What can we do to make our customers more effective innovators?”
It’s not just about sharing best practices -- the bigger question is "How can we innovate in the development of better practices?”
Let's meet face-to-face and discuss these critical issues. We're all in this together.