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Peter Cook

Human Dynamics

Managing Director

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Blog: Punk Rock HR – Resilience and the Chumbawumba effect

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Good HR people and leaders share what I call the ‘Chumbawumba effect’ in common.  

Check out Chumbawumba’s punk folk song “I get knocked down but I get up again” to see / hear what I mean:
 
The lyric “I get knocked down but I get up again” summarises the quality of ’emotional resilience’ or ‘mental toughness’. Emotional resilience is defined as an individual’s ability to cope with stress and adversity. Accepted wisdom says that the ability to recover from life’s difficulties and move on is a good thing.  
 
Certainly it’s a very important concept for creative people and innovators as life throws its fair degree of obstacles in the way of a new idea.
 
In my time working on life-saving pharmaceuticals, I’ve seen brilliant scientists destroyed by changes of plans for drug research and development, which mean that they are asked to stop working on their pet project or passion.
 
There is a marked difference between those individuals that see such changes pragmatically for what they are i.e. a change in priorities and those who see these changes as a personal attack on their soul and identity. Bouncing back may take years in such extreme cases. This is clearly not productive for the person or the enterprise.
 
At the other extreme we have those who keep bouncing back but who never learn from their mistakes. Typified by people who start an enterprise, fail, make themselves bankrupt, start up again the following day and keep doing this, leaving chaos and disorder in their wake.  
 
These people are popularised by some media people as entrepreneurs, yet in my humble opinion they are just charlatans and cheats. The stereotype is summed up in this deeply ironic clip from Alan Partridge:
 
The point of Chumbawumba’s song is that, if you hit an obstacle, setback or failure in your work or life, the most important thing is to learn from the experience. Paradoxically, a high level of skill in the area of self-awareness can be just as dangerous as having none of this quality. 
 
Those with high self-awareness may drown in regret/reflection/rumination. Those without carry on crashing through life regardless at their own and other’s expense. The differentiator between these two is the ability to learn from setbacks and move on, carrying the lessons with you.  
 
Not so much ‘Shut Up, Move On’ as popularised by the SUMO man, but ‘Stop, Learn, Adapt, Move On’. I must admit however that SLAMO does not have the same poetic caché ! 🙂

Peter Cook is managing director of business and organisational performance consultancies, Human Dynamics and The Academy of Rock.

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Peter Cook

Managing Director

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