Organizational Resilience and Adversity Quotient


Organizational resilience has been an increasingly important concept given the uncertainties and turbulence in the world. According to Bhamra et al. (2011), resilience is closely related with the capability and ability of an element to return to a stable state after a disruption and is related to both the individual and organizational responses to turbulence and discontinuities. While resilience is easy to understand and appreciate, it is by no means straightforward to measure and develop. In fact, many researchers still found the concept lacking in empirical research. Much of current research stems from the field of social psychology and tends to look at individual resilience rather than the concept of organizational resilience. Having said that, one can easily argue that an organization is made up of individuals, and individual resilience is what eventually lead to the organization’s resilience.

Emmy Werner’s (1993) research of children on Hawaii’s island of Kauai uncovered four central characteristics of resilient children, those who could cope more effectively with poverty, abuse, disease, alcoholic parents, and divorce. The characteristics are:

  • An active approach toward solving life’s problems,
  • A tendency to perceive their experiences constructively,
  • An ability to gain others’ positive attention, and
  • An ability to use faith to maintain a positive vision of a meaningful life

Resilience amongst adults aren’t very much different from children. Most people whom we deem as resilient exhibits some if not all of these characteristics. The characteristics also seem to mirror the characteristics of people with high Adversity Quotient (AQ), as written in Paul Stoltz’s book – Adversity quotient: Turning obstacles into opportunities (1997).

C.O.R.E. Dimensions of Adversity Quotient

Adversity quotient encompasses four dimensions which measures the AQ of an individual. They are Control, Ownership, Reach, and Endurance embodied in the acronym C.O.R.E.

C stands for perceived control over adversity. Being able to predict and control events fosters adaptive preparedness. On the other hand the inability to exert influence over adversity breeds apprehension, apathy, and occasionally despair (Bandura, 1986). Specific perceived control over adversity is a major source of action because people who believe they can attain certain outcomes have the incentive to act (Bandura, 1997).

O stands for the perceived ownership of the outcome of adversity.  Some individuals experience strong emotions and discontent when they fail to achieve certain outcomes (Medvec, Madey, and Gilovich, 1995). Very often the discontentment drives the individual towards taking accountability of their actions and therefore the outcomes. They take steps to circumvent unpleasant events or center their attention on the outcomes of adversity regardless of its origin (Stoltz, 1997)

R stands for reach, which look at the perceived scope of the adversity, i.e. how far the adversity gets into the areas of one’s life. The greater the perception of the scope of adversity, the more handicapped such persons will feel. They tend to adopt pessimistic outlooks, experience agitation, sleeplessness, bitterness, and helplessness; make poor decisions; and become socially and professionally isolated ( Stoltz, 1997). The ability to manage the “reach” of adversity, the ability to quarantine adversity benefits all individuals regardless of occupations (Lyubomirsky, Caldwell, and Nolen-Hoeksema, 1998)

E stands for endurance, which is linked to the perceived duration of the adversity.  Attribution theory of Peterson & Seligman et al (1993) indicated that there is a big difference between people who attribute adversity to something temporary versus something more permanent or enduring.  Applying this theory, people who see their ability as the cause of failure (stable cause) are less likely to continue than people who attribute failure to their effort (a temporary cause). An element of endurance is also the sense of hope that “this too shall pass”. Hope is a confidence grounded in a realistic appraisal of the challenges in one’s environment and one’s capabilities for navigating around them (Groopman, 2004)

Currently C.O.R.E. is used to measure AQ of an individual with the Adversity Response Profile. However there is no tool in as far as i know that measures the C.O.R.E. of an organization. In my next posting, i will share a simple questionnaire i developed and used, in an attempt to determine the C.O.R.E. or AQ of an organization, hopefully leading to an objective measure of Organizational Resilience.


Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Prentice-Hall, Inc.

Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of Control. New York: W.H. Freeman

Bhamra, R., Dani, S., & Burnard, K. (2011). Resilience: the concept, a literature review and future directions. International Journal of Production Research, 49(18), 5375-5393.

Groopman, J. (2004). The anatomy of hope: How people prevail in the face of illness. Random House Trade Paperback

Lyubomirsky, S., Caldwell, N. D., & Nolen-Hoeksema, S. (1998). Effects of ruminative and distracting responses to depressed mood on retrieval of autobiographical memories. Journal of personality and social psychology, 75(1), 166.

Medvec, V. H., Madey, S. F., & Gilovich, T. (1995). When less is more: counterfactual thinking and satisfaction among Olympic medalists. Journal of personality and social psychology, 69(4), 603.

Peterson, C., Maier,S., & Seligman, M. (1993). Learned helplessness: Theory for the age of personal control, New York: Oxford University Press.

Stoltz, P. G. (1997). Adversity quotient: Turning obstacles into opportunities. New York: John Wiley.

Werner, E. E. (1993). Risk, resilience, and recovery: Perspectives from the Kauai Longitudinal Study. Development and psychopathology, 5, 503-503.

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