This content was originally published on The Resilience Shift website. The Resilience Shift, a 5-year programme supported by Lloyd’s Register Foundation and hosted by Arup, transitioned at the end of 2021 to become Resilience Rising. You can read more about The Resilience Shift’s journey and the transition to Resilience Rising here.

“When you are dealing with something unknown like this, our human nature is to grasp for a guidebook, where we really should have relied on our local expertise.”

What can we learn about the value of flattening management hierarchies in a crisis and empowering those with knowledge on the ground? In Round 11, several of our participants returned to this question.
“When you are dealing with something unknown like this, our human nature is to grasp for a guidebook. We deferred to the medical experts on matters where we really should have relied on our local expertise. (..) We have to remind ourselves that sometimes others are guessing too, and that our local knowledge is just as valid or perhaps more valid.”

“Often, when the city government presents ideas, it is almost as if it is not in the comprehension of the provincial government that the city would be thinking innovatively about something. It does not compute. It is like a cognitive bias, and perhaps an institutional one.”

“Throughout my work, I have seen there are many people who are really intelligent and are contributing a lot, but may not be at the senior level – often at the junior or mid management level. I call them champions. We need to identify them to achieve our objectives – a single leader cannot do anything.”

For some there is a personal dimension to the way organisations tend to overvalue certain people in certain roles and undervalue others.
“Personally it has been difficult to recognise someone’s authority if they don’t have the qualifications I do and got their position through politics. But I’ve started to work on this mindset, to be more humble, try to identify the reasons why that person is in that position, and how I can put my intellectual ego aside to connect with them.”

“Yes, I’m in power, I can yield a lot of influence and that’s nice. But we who are in those positions can actually have a better impact by stepping aside and empowering other people that come behind us.”

The next crisis will bring us once more into great uncertainty, and when that happens, it’s worth reflecting on who we listen to and what sources of information are actually of greatest value in a given moment. And why do we sometimes find it so difficult to let go of authority, of rightness? Which options are we unconsciously closing off for our organisation as we do this?