Resilience & Crisis Strategy

How can crises and disruptive changes be used as opportunities?

Not only a glance at the newspaper, but also objective indicators such as the "World Uncertainty Index" show that crises and major changes in corporate environments are following one another at an ever faster pace, and are increasingly overlapping. Change is thus becoming a new permanent condition to which companies not only have to react, but which at best even serves as a means of strategic further development. After all, crises and other times of major change often offer the best opportunities to set oneself apart from the competition. 

"A crisis is a terrible thing to waste."
Paul Romer, Economist, Stanford

A study by the Henderson Institute, for example, shows that as many as 14% of all companies recorded higher sales and earnings growth in times of crisis. Even after recessions, such crisis winners consistently had twice as much sales and earnings growth as average companies. A long-term analysis by GfK/Serviceplan for the FMCG sector in Germany also concludes that the biggest market share gains, but also the biggest market share losses, occur in phases of economic downturn.

Image title: Performance Gap
Source: Reeves, M., Rhodes, D., Ketels, C., Whitaker, K. (2019). Advantage in Adversity: Winning the Next Downturn, in: Lanzer, Sauberschwarz & Weiss, Successful through the Crisis, SpringerNature, 2020.

So taking advantage of crises and changes is possible and important - but not easy to achieve in practice!

Exploiting change by increasing resilience in the company

To make positive use of crises and change, companies need to build strong resilience. In relation to companies, this concept from psychology describes an organization's ability to cushion and adapt in a changing environment in order to achieve its goals, survive and thrive. Resilient organizations can anticipate and respond to risks and opportunities - due to sudden or gradual changes in the internal and external context. The above studies show that it is even possible to expand this definition if resilience describes not only the response to change, but even its exploitation for positive development. In order to achieve such resilience in companies, a proactive approach in the corporate strategy is particularly necessary in addition to operational (immediate) measures. 

Image title: Strategy matrix for times of crisis
Source: Lanzer, Sauberschwarz & Weiss, Erfolgreich durch die Krise, SpringerNature, 2020


According to the motto "reflection instead of reflex," specific capabilities are built up in the organization for this purpose, which allow the company's strategy to be adapted at short notice and continuously (agility), and new opportunities to be identified and implemented(innovation). In short, companies must become more agile and innovative at the organizational level. 

Resilience by establishing organizational capabilities for agility and innovation

The necessary organizational capabilities for agility and innovation can be established in the company through suitable methods and processes. Venture.idea relies on specially developed, established tools from many years of experience with innovation, strategy and organizational projects, which have been specifically adapted for dealing with change and building resilience. 

The capabilities for agility can be established in particular via a targeted portfolio strategy. This is also possible at management level at short notice in order to be able to quickly prioritize and refocus strategic measures and projects. This ensures the ability to react to crises and changes. 

On this basis, further capabilities for strategic innovation can then be established in the organization, enabling crises and changes to be used constructively in the long term. For this purpose, a 7-step process was defined, which, in addition to the portfolio strategy, also includes the development and implementation of new competitive advantages. This can be carried out holistically by venture.idea in the case of major changes, or implemented in the company for continuous application in the sense of an agile strategy. In this way, resilience can be increased both ad-hoc by means of a suitable portfolio strategy and an externally implemented agile strategy process, and in the medium term by transferring the processes and methods for establishing the necessary organizational capabilities in the company. In the long term, all the necessary capabilities can also be established to realize a permanently agile organization with high resilience. 

"A valuable foundation in any crisis"
Prof. Dr. Andreas Pinkwart, former Minister for Economic Affairs, Innovation, Digitalization and Energy of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia on the book: Erfolgreich durch Krise, Lanzer, Sauberschwarz & Weiss, SpringerNature, 2020
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Lucas Sauberschwarz

Managing Partner
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Resilience & Crisis Strategy
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