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Resilience & Innovation: The Connection

Space Bangkok supports the creation of resilient individuals, teams, and organizations; increasingly creative and effective meetings; and leadership for resilience and creativity. We create a pause from the frenetic pace of work and life to foster resilience and innovation and solve problems.

But how are resilience and innovation connected?

The precondition for innovation is creativity. Innovative solutions require a creative and iterative process. Yet weariness, trauma, grief, depression, anxiety, stress, burnout, and other mental health struggles limit or even eliminate the creative spark inside us. So how do we nurture or rekindle that spark? Through resilience practice – this is the key link.

Resilience is needed for innovation to thrive.

This is why Space Bangkok focuses on building resilience for innovation.

We live and work in a world facing increasingly complex challenges that demand continually innovative solutions. At the same time, for many of us our individual and, by extension, team creative energy is steadily decreasing as we deal with professional and social structures that demand our constant engagement, busyness, and service. This is especially reinforced for those of us in the peace, humanitarian, and other serving-oriented fields.

Yet while we increasingly focus on the sustainability of our projects and the resilience of the communities and populations we work with, we rarely do so for ourselves. The statistics on the mental health of the helping professions, including humanitarian aid workers[i], alone are staggering. The very people we rely on to bring peace and make the world a better place are doing so at significantly reduced capacity while also causing lasting harm to their own lives as well as those of their families and friends.

As workers burn out, or worse, and leave their jobs, organizations spend one and a half times the worker’s annual salary to replace them, all the while losing the skill, institutional memory, and relationships held by the more experienced staff and upon which project success is built. And while it would seem like a logical personal and business decision to take better care of one’s self and one’s human resources, social and professional norms join with industry pressure to be lean and lessen overhead costs to reinforce a dominant culture of “Suck it up, you have to be tougher than that to work in this field. Don’t you know other people are worse off than you? How can you take care of yourself when the community you are working with is still suffering?”

Yet this prevailing culture is based on a faulty approach, because we must first take care of ourselves if we are to be of any help to anyone else. This is true of all of us regardless of our profession or vocation.

Parker Palmer writes, “None of us can ‘mend’ another person’s life, no matter how much the other may need it, no matter how much we may want to do it. Mending is inner work that everyone must do for him or herself. When we fail to embrace that truth the result is heartbreak for all concerned. What we can do is walk alongside the people we care about, offering simple companionship and compassion. And if we want to do that, we must save the only life we can save, our own. Only when I'm in possession of my own heart can I be present for another in a healing, encouraging, empowering way. Then I have a gift to offer, the best gift I possess – the gift of a self that is whole, that stands in the world on its own two feet.”

Basically, if we want to help others, we need to make sure we are taking care of ourselves. What does that mean, though, taking care of ourselves? Mostly we may think of self-care. And, yes, while self-care is part of the equation, it is not the entire equation.

What we are talking about here is a continuum.

On one end is self-care. This is the emergency room – those things you do when the world is crashing in and you just need to cope. These are the band aids and tourniquets we turn to when we’ve come home at the end of a particularly hard and stressful day or week at the office, when we are facing our failures, or when our boss has once again overlooked or taken credit for our work.

On the other end of the continuum is resilience practice. This is prevention and long-term care and treatment – those things you do and practice in the long term that help you reflect, process, and build your personal resilience to sustain you both personally and professionally. This is where you continually stoke the flames of your inner creativity.

All points along the continuum are important. Just like with your physical health, at various times you need immediate care, diagnostic examinations, and life habits and long-term practices to continue to sustain your health – both mental and physical. Yes, the details of what works where along the continuum are individual, vary for each person, and can only be discovered by that individual.

The path to building our resilience is first a personal journey of exploration inwards. Then, we as a team can explore what works on the continuum of our office culture resilience.

And as we nurture our resilience, innovation thrives.

----- [i] 79% of aid workers globally experienced mental health issues. 93% said it was related to their work in the aid industry. 66% of aid workers cited lack of support at work as the principle factor impacting on their mental health. 84% of aid workers suffering mental health issues negatively impacting their work continued to work untreated. (The Guardian survey on the Global Development Professional Network (GDPN), 2015, It is estimated US employers are losing US$63.2 billion per year in lost productivity due to insomnia alone (American Academy of Sleep Medicine, “Insomnia costing US workforce $63.2 billion a year in lost productivity, study shows”,


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