Resilience of organisations and territories: The role of pivot firms

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Authors: J. Gilly, M. Kechidi, D. Talbot

Publication Year: 2013


Journal: European Management Journal

Volume: 32

Categories: Adaptation, Organizational Change, Resilience


The authors of this article see resilience as not the return to the state of equilibrium that existed before a perturbation, but a step to a qualitatively new state, new development pathway. In this article, they distinguish two categories of external events triggering a process of resilience: certain and radical crisis, and profound productive and technological development and growth. Based on this idea the authors develop a conception of resilience based on two dimensions: organizational dimension and territorial dimension. Organizational dimension refers to “capacity of an organization to manage a disturbance to its environment and to develop a new pathway”. Here we talk about Organizational resilience, which refers to a double capacity: resisting to a shock or crisis, and anticipating and thus adapting to this shock or to a rapid evolution in the economic context by creating new systems, particularly organizational ones. Thus, the organization facing a crisis has two ways to follow depending on the nature of its internal skills and of its modes of coordination: Proposal 1: the organization possesses sufficient information and knowledge to deal satisfactorily with the uncertainty relating to its activity and successfully uses it. Proposal 2: if the organization does not hold all the information or knowledge necessary for the response, it must develop a new, original response. Whereas organizational resilience operates within a single organization, territorial resilience refers to specific capacities shared by geographically closely related actors. In other words, it is a “collective capacity of the actors to contribute and to facilitate the development of territorial responses to external disturbances”. The following proposals connected to territorial resilience are also the stages of formation of a specification territory Proposal 3: territorial resilience is based on the collective capacity of the actors to materialize a common production-related problem, to share a common aim. Proposal 4: because they have identified a common production related problem, the actors within a territory are able to reach compromises in order to harmonize their strategies within a local productive organization. Proposal 5: the actors are able to create collecive learning process and thus to innovate succesfully. Merging these dimensions can lead to a new approach to resilience and developing a new type of the organizations – pivot firms, which have the technical and organizational capacity to coordinate a network of actors in a given territory. Apart from organizational skills, such firms have specific combinatory, technical and relational skills. The more detailed description of these organizations is also given in the article.

Critical Reflection

The authors of this article develop the topic of organizational resilience by firstly considering it as a set of capacities (both reactive capacity to resist external events, and more active capacity to anticipate events and thus to open new development pathways). The second theoretical contribution of this paper is proposed definition of resilience as combination of the organizational and territorial dimensions. From this point of view, the organizations may use geographical proximity in order to collaborate with other organizations and to exchange knowledge, expertise and experience more effectively. As a result, the territory develops faster, and this becomes the basis for territorial resilience, which is the external to organization. In addition, in this paper a key actor able to link these two types of resilience is described. This is the pivot firm, which is able to both innovate by itself alone and develop internal technological process, and collaborate with its strategic partners (external development). This correlates with “The adaptive organization” theme of our course, and its subtopics (e.g. resilience, adaptation, designing for emergence; flexible coalitions and open innovation), and gives a clear view of what an organization should be in order to successfully adapt to changing environment. Finally, in this conceptual paper the authors formulated a set of theoretical proposals, which call for in-depth empirical validation. Therefore, this article gives a good basis for the future research.