Why does resilience matter?

In response to my article on holding back the tide of complexity, Lillian Oats asked: What's important about a resilient process?

It's a good question, but in some ways the wrong question to ask.

There is nothing intrinsically "important" about a resilient process but as our world becomes more complex, it is less and less viable to implement robust processes to solve problems.

Therefore, regardless of whether a resilient process leads to more attractive outcomes than those of a corresponding robust process (in abstract terms), if in practice the outcome of a robust process won't be achieved then the resilient process becomes the option we need to adopt.

Compare the generations of warfare. At each stage, a seemingly "robust" process for success (line and column; linear fire and movement; infiltration of military lines) was bypassed by faster-moving tactics which inevitably required greater autonomy being granted to individuals.

This is an inevitable consequence of John Boyd's OODA theory: the person or group able to react faster will "generate confusion and disorder" although as noted, "Taking control of the situation is key. It is not enough to speed through OODA faster."

If we look at highly effective resilient operations, there is normally a simple, overarching goal which everyone agrees is achievable. John Robb calls this the "plausible premise", and it has been shown many times to be an almost unstoppable force.

In tech, the most important plausible premise -- that open source could directly compete and win against commercial software -- was established through the disruption of the Internet Explorer browser monopoly by Mozilla, despite the strongly robust (in fact, anti-competitive) stance adopted by Microsoft. Since then, the countless monopoly or near-monopoly positions have been weakened or destroyed by competing open source software implementations.

In fact, the evidence for resilience is now strong enough to make a fairly bold claim: In any open environment, robust processes cannot directly compete against resilient efforts and will need to evolve to a new, less-competed-against position or fail.

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