Turning Variability into Emergent Safety: the Resilience Matrix for Providing Strong Responses to Weak Signals

Abstract: Resilience is the ability to provide strong responses to weak signals. Weak signals are uncertain information that could be read as a warning of future changes, both mishaps and opportunities. They could be the first symptoms of a big change, but they are embedded in a variability that is hidden in normal operations and difficult to distinguish from random occurrences. We propose a model, the Resilience Matrix, which could help systems cope with these weak and potentially resonant signals by means of a cyclic information transfer along the system. Frontline operators should be able to notice weak signals, understanding how the current variability is a threat that is not mitigated by available procedures and barriers. This information should be shared and managed at the group level and then, if necessary, it should be transferred at the organizational level, where procedures and barriers should be formally redesigned according to the new information. These procedures should then be tested for their effectiveness at the group level and transferred as new skills for operators by means of training. This cycle is aimed at empowering people, groups and organizations, helping them to turn variability into a source for resilience.