Resilience and Operating in Complex Contexts – (Part 3) Individuals and Resilience

Share this content


As we near the end of this trilogy, we have previously focused on strategy and operations. Now, we will go deeper into the realm of individuals, which is where the true test of resilience lies, writes Pia Horttanainen Croxford & Matthew Croxford, Myelin LLC.

At the individual staff level, this is where friction is experienced, but it is where breakthroughs are made.

It serves as a test for the success of your resilience strategies and operational planning.

There are many beneficial attributes when working in fragile environments, but we will highlight a few examples that may not be routinely paid attention to yet are highly meaningful and impactful across the organisation and up to the strategic level.

In fragile and complex contexts, organisations face pressure from various sources.

Individuals and teams within the organisation need to be resilient when facing multifaceted challenges, both external and internal.

It may be difficult to fully prevent external pressures such as changes in political, legal, security or economic domains, but it is important to adapt and have the capability to transform from such events.

Internal resilience is related to an individual’s ability to perform at the necessary level and use advanced skills to excel in harsh and often unforgiving environments.

Much of the capabilities of individuals especially in the security sector are often connected to physical performance capabilities.

In fragile and conflict-related contexts or extreme weather environments, fitness plays a fundamental role.

Therefore, it may be lucrative to deploy relatively young and rapid individuals and to consider that all the complex contexts can be met with standard physical or tactical performance capabilities.

It may be this or just merely challenging recruitment processes, that fairly seldom one sees so-called dream teams that would be comprehensive and context-specific in their skills and knowledge set.

Teams are hardly ever put together with a full acknowledgement and understanding of every team member’s specific physical, cognitive and behavioural skills and capability to complement the team composition thus recruiting balancing attributes seems to be too often undervalued or limited.

This seems short-sighted taking into consideration the weight that these individuals hold. Complex contexts often entail high stakes, where decisions made can have far-reaching and potentially adverse effects.

The benefits of diversifying the skills, capacity and capabilities ensure a comprehensive approach to resilience, allowing anticipation and mitigation of potential issues.

This also embeds the fact that investing in the training of the organisation’s staff and teams working in challenging contexts would benefit not only in increased cognitive and behavioural skills including micro-skills of individuals but also the operational resilience that in the end has got also a human element involved.

This is particularly important in cases where the company hires local nationals to assist with daily activities.

The international staff members may have limited experience working with local stakeholders, local customs and etiquette or simply the culture of the host country.

Cultural insensitivity or disrespect will set the whole operation in jeopardy simply by having weak trust among the staff and a toxic working environment.

Complex situations often involve high stakes, where decisions made can have far-reaching and potentially adverse effects.

Such situations can also put high pressure on staff due to constant changes.

Being alert, confronting obstacles, creating solutions and constantly making decisions can lead to decision-making fatigue.

This can result in easy solutions, minimum efforts and narrowed views, leading to quick decisions that may give a false sense of progress.

Understanding the factors that impact individuals in specific contexts allows organisations to look beyond poor decisions and analyse what resilience elements can be put in place to build and maintain individual resilience and peak performance capabilities.  


Companies operating in volatile surroundings, especially in the field of security, need to recognise that the success of their operations depends heavily on their frontline staff.

The cognitive, behavioural and physical skills and capabilities of these employees are crucial for ensuring successful operations and resilience.

When information flows smoothly from operations to the strategic level and employees possess strong communication and tension-reduction skills, decision-making becomes faster and more effective, resulting in beneficial interactions and increased resilience capabilities.

Additionally, developing deeper cultural awareness and micro-skills is highly rewarding, as these employees are often the face of the organisation locally.

By having a well established understanding of the local conditions and contextual reality, along with an elevated ability to tolerate pressure and negotiate skilfully, interactions with various stakeholders become less prone to friction.

This ultimately contributes to a positive working culture and fosters trust within the organisation and with external counterparts.

Organisations need to have preparedness and appropriate skills and capacity at all levels. This includes those at a strategic level as well as those at the ground level.

However, it is crucial to understand that a “one-size-fits-all” approach may not work universally.

What works in the Middle East may not necessarily work in Africa.

Flexibility and contextualisation remain key in volatile situations. Acknowledging that even the simplest tasks might require substantial time and effort is vital.

Adjusting deadlines to accommodate on-ground situations is often necessary.

Establishing clear communication channels among onsite staff, operations and the strategic level becomes paramount.

This facilitates real time information for decision-makers, offering the best chance to support ground operations efficiently, especially during time constraints and critical incidents.     

Myelin LLC

Myelin LLC is a consulting company that specialises in providing tailored services to businesses and organisations that operate in complex and unpredictable environments. The company’s expertise is in security, politics, law, governance and human rights domains as well as their interconnections.

Myelin LLC offers strategic and operational consultation, analysis, forecasting, advisory and planning services extending also to crisis management and conflict resolution, negotiation and mediation consultancy.

To find out more information, visit:


Receive the latest breaking news straight to your inbox