Be Resilient, Part I: How to Measure Resilience

Factors of Production,” Wikipedia, 14 August 2006,

Resilience,” Wikipedia, 29 August 2006,

With Steve’s original post on Singaporean resilience continuing to gain traction (SG Entrepreneurs and China Law Blog have written things not mentioned in my first update), I thought it was time to take a stab at determining what, measurably, is resilience.

First, some definitions, from Wikipedia

resilience, n:
the capacity of a material to absorb energy when it is deformed elastically and then, upon unloading to have this energy recovered
the magnitude of disturbance that can be absorbed before the system changes its structure by changing the variables and processes that control behavior

Resilience thus measures system-perturbation energy. To measure resilience, then, we need to determine what factors into the production of energy in system-perturbations. More generally, this means determining what are the factors of production, and here the answer is easy:

Factors of Production:

    includes Land, which means

  • Physical Territory
  • Natural Resources
  • includes Labor, which means

  • Human Effort
  • includes Capital, which means

  • Machinery
  • Tools
  • Buildings
  • Cash

These can be trivially operationalized — subjected to measurement — and we can answer the question of whether Singapore is resilient by measuring its resiliency in these factors. Working from what seems reasonable, we can say that Singapore is

  • not resilience in Physical Territory, as a small loss of Physical Territory would greatly impact the state
  • resilient in Natural Resources, as Singapore could use other factors (especially cash) to acquire more
  • resilient in human effort, as Singapore has a record of attracting more labor when the State is dissatisfied with her own
  • resilient in Machinery, as Singapore can buy more
  • resilient in Tools, as Singapore can buy more
  • resilient in Buildings, as Singapore can buy more
  • resilient in Cash, as Singapore has enough to cushion most shocks.

Of course, one can have resilience but not resiliency, though that is a post for another time…

Be Resilient, a tdaxp series
1. How to Measure Resilience
2. How to Measure Agility
3. How to Measure Resiliency
4. The Importance of Measurement

6 thoughts on “Be Resilient, Part I: How to Measure Resilience”

  1. Interesting…

    I like the approach of mapping the economic factors of production to Resilience.

    I think this relies to much on classical economics. Current economic thinking recognizing that the factors of production are muchmore intangibale then the ones you present.

    The intangiable factors are heavy human capital-ish: education, entrepanerislm, leaderships, process knowledge, etc.

    I like this approach. I think total Resilience might be quantified by assigning weight (1,3,9 for low, medium, high) to each factor and then a score for the country for each factor (1,3,9 for l, m, h)…multiple…add get a toal score.

  2. Purpleslog,

    “Capital” may be the hardest part to measure. Part of Capital surely is Human Doctrine, but that is not the same because, while both the Italian and German tactics in WWII were based on “maneuver warfare,” Germany was able to implement them while Italy was not. To fully measure resilience we would need to operationalize all parts of Orientation — cultural traditions, genetic factors, etc [1] — and it is unlikely that will happen.

    I like your paragraph, and the suggestions for measuring this. Another approach might be to use some numeric scale that's based on standard deviation, but even then the main point is that we are now closer to being able to objectively “test” for resilience. Objective tests aren't perfect and aren't the end-all, but it enables a line of research that otherwise would just be writing what seems obvious to us.

    Stay tuned for Part II… I wonder if you will like that, too….


  3. Howard Bloom is prepping a different approach to understanding capital and capitalism:

    The method I cribbed from the corporate world for product evaluations bake-offs (give much more weight to more important things).

    Yep, it can't be measured perfectlyl. Maybe it can be like the GDP though. GDP calculations get many things wrong. What's wrong though cancels out enough that the realitive change from year to year is still an interesting metric.

  4. I like the comparison of GDP to Resilience a lot! That is precise what we should be aiming for — a compass. Compass needles aren't perfect either, but most of the time they tell us which way to go.

    How much have you read of Reinventing Capitalism? I loved Bloom's previous too books, so I have been thinking about forking over the $40 for a copy…

  5. I read through the online stuff 6 months or so ago. I keep checking every few weeks to see if the book is for sale on Amazon. I have enough unread books piling up, that I will wait for something less then $40.

  6. Purpleslog,

    I haven't read the online excerpt yet, but I agree with you on the $40 barrier. That's even more than the the $34.95 unabridged audio of Bill Bryson's “A Short History of Nearly Everything” I purchased which kept me sane during two bus trips [1] [2]. easily fit on a mini ipod with plenty of room to spare, was excellently produced, and provided a pleasant and very long history of the universe from the big bang to the rise of modern man.

    Hopefully Bloom's latest will be printed by regular publisher or at least reduced in price online.


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