The Anti-Fragile Organisation  — Neu21

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It is inherently true that the modern environment in which we live and work is complex. Rife with uncertainty, randomness and chaos.

Whilst most modern organisations understand this intellectually they often fail to translate this understanding into coherent systems and ways of working.

Since the industrial revolution and the creation of the factory, human beings have set about creating organisational systems that have allowed us to effectively cooperate on a large scale.

These systems worked incredibly well for many years, but they have not aged well. As the world has grown more connected and the pace of innovation has increased many of these organisations have struggled to adapt and many more have failed to survive.

Recently I have found a new way of looking at organisations that has been incredibly helpful.

The Triad

The triad is an incredibly useful idea introduced by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his book Anti-fragile that I will borrow here to talk about organisations.

Taleb introduces the triad as a new way of seeing the world, a way of mapping or classifying anything that matters into three district categories.

Those three categories are fragile, robust and anti-fragile.

The fragile are those things that break down when exposed to stressors, the robust are those that resist stressors but neither lose or gain from them. The anti-fragile on the other hand are those that gain from the disorder.

The Goal

Whilst the distinction between robust and ant-fragile may seem subtle and of little consequence the end goal for an organisation in each category is very different.

A business that is in the robust category has the goal of becoming the immoveable object. Resistant to stressors and the randomness of life, the robust organisation does all it can to ensure that it will survive change.

The anti-fragile organisation on the other hand is more akin to the unstoppable force. It’s evolutionary, constantly adapting to stressors in its environment. It embraces change and thrives, focusing on constant innovation and continuous improvement.

You

Exploring the three categories of the triad and the goal of each naturally leads us to asking ourselves where our organisation sits. I think this is a very useful questions to be asking.

Even more useful when a perfect example of the randomness we have been discussing has disrupted the entire world of work, say a global pandemic.

How has your organisation responded to this new stressor?

An organisation in the fragile category would have begun to break down as problems surfaced.

A robust organisation would have prepared for survival, creating new processes and systems to help them make it through to the other side.

An anti-fragile organisation would have adapted to this new environment and became even better than they were before. They would have taken these new limitations and used them as a catalyst for innovation.

Moving Categories

For most people reading this blog, the realisation will be that your organisation is sitting in either the fragile or the robust category.

This is a powerful realisation because now we can focus on the actions that we can take to shift ourselves into the anti-fragile category.

A topic that we are looking forward to covering in the coming weeks!

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