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Regenerating after a global crisis: a case study of resilience

Anne-Sophie Thelisson (Institute of Sustainable Business and Organizations, Sciences and Humanities Confluence Research Center – UCLY, ESDES, Lyon, France and Department of Strategy, Université Catholique de Lyon, Lyon, France)
Olivier Meier (Department of Strategy, Universite Paris-Est Creteil Val de Marne, Paris, France)

Journal of Business Strategy

ISSN: 0275-6668

Article publication date: 13 February 2024

Issue publication date: 26 March 2024




Organizational resilience, defined by a firm’s speed in reaching a dynamic equilibrium after a shock and after the shocks are absorbed, and crisis management are critical in a global crisis. The concept of resilience is increasingly used in the economic press; nevertheless, few studies demonstrate empirically how firms became resilient and the lessons to be learned from it. Traditionally, the concept of resilience is approached as resistance in the face of a crisis. The authors go further by showing three-loop learning, which is part of a logic of innovation and regeneration. This study aims to examine how a business can regenerate itself by effectively managing the external threats and disruptions caused by a crisis. Also, this study deepens knowledge on learning process. The double-loop learning process is known in the literature as enabling firms to learn from unexpected events and react accordingly. The findings point out a third loop implying the co-invention of a new business model and a collective mindfulness of changes made.


Using longitudinal data, the authors investigate how the global crisis affects merger negotiations between two companies. This study analyzes the period of dialogue (negotiation) between the two entities with a view to carrying out a merger and then their withdrawal from the project during the pandemic, reshuffling the cards for each company. The negotiation period is not normally disclosed because of its highly confidential and strategic nature and it is therefore difficult for researchers to access merger operations at the negotiation stage. From this viewpoint, this case study was chosen because of the availability of generally inaccessible documentation.


This in-depth case study provides new insights on organizational resilience and the recovery capacity of a firm. The results underline four main triggers that a firm should develop in facing a major crisis: skills; credits; previous and historical relationships; and corporate culture. Recovery capacity depends on reactivity, flexibility, learning and regeneration. Finally, this study points out a three-loop learning experience that can be understood as a learning process in two steps to generate lasting and adaptive changes.

Research limitations/implications

The limitations are those concerning a single case study.

Practical implications

This study highlights the ability to deal with unexpected events. First, this work identifies concrete items that can be perceived by managers as elements enabling a firm to develop resilience. Second, the results show main elements enabling this capacity as reactivity – both companies react quickly and effectively to disturbances to limit the impact on their performance; or flexibility – firms adapt their business model to deal with disruptions. Third, this work underlines a learning capacity process in three steps to recover capacity. This process stimulates creativity and innovation by the teams and stakeholders by placing them at the heart of the change.


This case provides a vivid illustration of firms’ adaptation to a rapidly evolving context because of a global crisis. Theoretical concepts and empirical findings from the literature are combined to present a single consistent picture.



Thelisson, A.-S. and Meier, O. (2024), "Regenerating after a global crisis: a case study of resilience", Journal of Business Strategy, Vol. 45 No. 3, pp. 153-160.



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