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Classic: The Rules of Antifragility: Learning to Love Volatility, Trial and Error over Research

Classic:  The Rules of Antifragility:  Learning to Love Volatility, Trial and Error over Research | Change Management Resources | Scoop.it

"Five rules that can help us to establish antifragility as a principle of our socioeconomic life."

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Antifragility…is a crucial property of life in general…in the evolution of all things, from cuisine, urbanization and legal systems to our own existence as a species on this planet.

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Rule 1: Think of the economy as being more like a cat than a washing machine.

…Natural or organic systems are antifragile: They need some dose of disorder in order to develop. Deprive your bones of stress and they become brittle. This denial of the antifragility of living or complex systems is the costliest mistake that we have made in modern times. …problems hide in the absence of stressors, and the resulting cumulative harm can take on tragic proportions.

   

…The state should be there for emergency-room surgery.   …In social policy, when we provide a safety net, it should be designed to help people take more entrepreneurial risks, not to turn them into dependents. This doesn't mean that we should be callous to the underprivileged. In the long run, bailing out people is less harmful to the system than bailing out firms…

   

Rule 2: Favor businesses that benefit from their own mistakes, not those whose mistakes percolate into the system.


Some businesses and political systems respond to stress better than others. The airline industry is set up in such a way as to make travel safer after every plane crash. A tragedy leads to the thorough examination and elimination of the cause of the problem. The same thing happens in the restaurant industry, where the quality of your next meal depends on the failure rate in the business—what kills some makes others stronger. Without the high failure rate in the restaurant business, you would be eating Soviet-style cafeteria food for your next meal out.

    

Rule 3: Small is beautiful, but it is also efficient.

…Great size in itself, when it exceeds a certain threshold, produces fragility and can eradicate all the gains from economies of scale.  ...So we need to distribute decisions and projects across as many units as possible, which reinforces the system by spreading errors across a wider range of sources. In fact, I have argued that government decentralization would help to lower public deficits. 

     

Rule 4: Trial and error beats academic knowledge.

Tinkering by trial and error has traditionally played a larger role than directed science in Western invention and innovation. Indeed, advances in theoretical science have most often emerged from technological development, which is closely tied to entrepreneurship. Just think of the number of famous college dropouts in the computer industry.

    

…There is a crucial requirement to achieve antifragility: The potential cost of errors needs to remain small; the potential gain should be large. It is the asymmetry between upside and downside that allows antifragile tinkering to benefit from disorder and uncertainty.

    

Rule 5: Decision makers must have skin in the game.

…The Romans forced engineers to sleep under a bridge once it was completed. …This rule would have saved us from the banking crisis, when bankers who loaded their balance sheets with exposures to small probability events collected bonuses during the quiet years and then transferred the harm to the taxpayer, keeping their own compensation.

   

Antifragility…is a crucial property of life in general, not just in economic life but in the evolution of all things, from cuisine, urbanization and legal systems to our own existence as a species on this planet.

   

Modernity has been obsessed with comfort and cosmetic stability, but by making ourselves too comfortable and eliminating all volatility from our lives, we do to our bodies and souls what Mr. Greenspan did to the U.S. economy: We make them fragile. We must instead learn to gain from disorder.

    

—Mr. Taleb, a former derivatives trader, is a professor of risk engineering at New York University's Polytechnic Institute. He is the author of "Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder" (Random House, 2012), from which this is adapted.

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Deb Nystrom, REVELN's insight:

These antifragile rules from Taleb's 2012 instant classic book continue to raise awareness of the dangers of stability, size and comfort.  They are good reminders during any phase of business cycles as market reality meets with the natural complexities of change.  ~ Deb

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Richard Platt's curator insight, December 5, 2014 10:07 PM

Great book if you haven't read  it 

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Mount Everest Shows the Danger Of Clinging To Goals: Embrace Uncertainty Like An Entrepreneur

Mount Everest Shows the Danger Of Clinging To Goals:  Embrace Uncertainty Like An Entrepreneur | Change Management Resources | Scoop.it

In 1996 a disaster of historic proportion happened on the peak of Mount Everest. In the entire climbing season, 15 climbers died. Eight of those deaths took place on a single day."


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In the corporate world we’re often focused on achieving our goals at all costs. This eventually reaches the status of dogma.

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Journalist and mountain climber Jon Krakauer captured this story in his book “Into Thin Air;” he was on the mountain that day.
    
Krakauer puts part of the blame on the stubbornness of a climbing guide. While there is some evidence to support this claim, most climbers are, by definition, stubborn and arrogant. Yet disasters of this magnitude are rare. 
    
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In this case the teams encountered a traffic jam at Hilary pass that slowed progression, and disregarded their turnaround time.   ...Members, however, continued on reaching the summit   ...Doug Hansen, a postal service worker from the New Zealand group, was the last to summit. While he made it to the top, the odds were against him ever coming back.

Like seven others, he died on the descent. 

     

...What would it look like to embrace uncertainty?

      

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Start with your means.  Don't wait for the perfect opportunity.
   
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Professor Saras Sarasvathy interviewed forty-five “successful” entrepreneurs and found a disconnect between our thoughts on entrepreneurs as successfully pursuing a goal-oriented approach and reality.

    

"An entrepreneur's ...precise endpoint was often mysterious to them, and their means of proceeding reflected this. Overwhelmingly, they scoffed at the goals-first doctrine of Locke and Latham. Almost none of them suggested creating a detailed business plan or doing comprehensive market research to hone the details of the product they were aiming to release."

  

The most valuable skill of a successful entrepreneur...[is] the ability to adopt an unconventional approach to learning: an improvisational flexibility  [including] a willingness to change the destination itself, [using] a set of principles she calls “effectuation.”

      

 “Start with your means. Don’t wait for the perfect opportunity. Start taking action, based on what you have readily available: what you are, what you know and who you know.”

     

A second is the “principle of affordable loss”  ...— ask how big the loss would be if you failed. So long as it would be tolerable, that’s all you need to know. Take that next step, and see what happens.

        

“The quest for certainty blocks the search for meaning,” argued the social psychologist Erich Fromm. “Uncertainty is the very condition to impel man to unfold his powers.” Uncertainty is where things happen. It is where the opportunities — for success, for happiness, for really living — are waiting.

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Deb Nystrom, REVELN's insight:

As one who faithfully taught purpose, goals and work planning since the 90s, I've learned to revise my thinking post 9-11, in a global, "anti-fragile" (Taleb) age, embracing a different approach to adaptive change.  Now, it is especially important to think like an entrepreneur, to embrace uncertainty, and to get clear about how goals can also be a trap.  

    

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“A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.”  

~ Bruce Lee
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This piece illustrates the deadly side of goal-setting, and features one of my favorite entrepreneurial professors, Dr. Saras Saravathy - who has the research goods on how to embrace uncertainty, a bias for action, and how pushing through failure helps create entrepreneurial success.

    
Entrepreneurial thinking is a mindset that can help all of us let go of the industrial age rigidity.  Note that GM is mentioned in the article.   It's worth pondering for what you might choose to do differently, tolerating a certain amount of uncertainty, in your own life, tonight and tomorrow.  

    

~  Deb 

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Deb Nystrom, REVELN's curator insight, June 25, 2014 2:18 PM

As one who faithfully taught purpose, goals and work planning since the 90s, I've learned to revise my thinking post 9-11, in a global, "anti-fragile" (Taleb) age, embracing a different approach to adaptive change.  Now, it is especially important to think like an entrepreneur, to embrace uncertainty, and to get clear about how goals can also be a trap.  
    
This piece illustrates the deadly side of goal-setting, and features one of my favorite entrepreneurial professors, Dr. Saras Saravathy - who has the research goods on how to embrace uncertainty, a bias for action, and how pushing through failure helps create entrepreneurial success.

    
Entrepreneurial thinking is a mindset that can help all of us let go of the industrial age rigidity.  Note that GM is mentioned in the article.   It's worth pondering for what you might choose to do differently, tolerating a certain amount of uncertainty, in your own life, tonight and tomorrow.  


~  Deb 

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Rutgers, Universities, Bias: 3 Things That Cause Ethical Breakdowns and How Timing Counts

Rutgers, Universities, Bias: 3 Things That Cause Ethical Breakdowns and How Timing Counts | Change Management Resources | Scoop.it

"Tensions among senior staff in universities seem to be making the news on a regular basis. Examples include leader strife at Rutgers (blame), Penn State (cascade failure to deal with a crime) and University of Virginia (abrupt leadership goings and comings.)"

At the time of this post, we have the breaking story of not only the firing of a Rutgers basketball coach because of abusive behavior  of his players, as shared widely on video, but also high level conflict of senior university administrators over who is responsible.


The interviews and documents reveal a culture in which the university was far more concerned with protecting itself from legal action than with protecting its students from an abusive coach.


Source:  The New York Times



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…we are biased in every single situation. There’s no such thing as objectivity. ~ Erin White 



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Leaders are the ones who set the tone.  They can also easily miss things in the complexity of the organizational system.  Enron, Johnson and Johnson, and the classroom cheating examples (listed in the post) are three of the sample stories that provide a good range of how challenging it is to consistently walk to talk of ethics in leadership.


Get the full story here:  



Deb Nystrom, REVELN's insight:

This is one of my own posts, a 2013 updated mash-up from a popular post from 2011 on ethics, trust and consistency, now including references on adaptive systems views of leadership. ~  Deb

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Shared Leadership and the University - Approaches to Change, Time to Lead

Shared Leadership and the University - Approaches to Change, Time to Lead | Change Management Resources | Scoop.it

While we often look to one hierarchical leader to guide us through difficult changes, in business and in public life, this may not be what is most effective.


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...shared leadership strategies, though messy, were more effective in establishing change....
even though the academy leans strongly towards hierarchical leadership reliance. 

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In cases where a large scale strategic or transformative change needs to occur, leadership responsibilities need to shift and often become shared between various individuals or groups. 


Professor Duin and forum participants all shared personal cases where singular leadership was misaligned with the needs of the organization and shared leadership strategies, though messy, were more effective in establishing change that would be by all the parties involved.   
This type of buy-in is often needed in the University setting, even though the academy leans strongly towards hierarchical leadership reliance. 


Whether restructuring colleges and departments to be a more competitive and well aligned university to developing ways for various technology centers to work together to delineate responsibilities, meet the needs of users, and continue evolving with the fast pace of new technology offerings, developing inroads for collaborative co-leadership is key to making broad innovative changes. 

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  • Are you local to SE Michigan?  Find out more about horse-guided leadership development sessions (no fee demos) for individuals by contacting Deb, after reviewing her coaching page here.

 

Deb Nystrom, REVELN's insight:

Here's a reminder of the basics of change, from a higher education perspective.  It's interesting to see the siloed, bridged and shared scope definitions, appropriate to the hierarchies natural to higher education. 

In my own hometown, we have a new president about to begin, along the task of filling key, top-level vacancies in administration. Professor Ann Hill Duin, University of Minnesota has shared forum perspectives on change in academe, particularly what works, and what does not work.   ~  Deb

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Pascal Vedel's curator insight, July 19, 2014 3:15 AM

Une bonne synthèse des divers types de changements...

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Lead Through Personality Complexity: Enough with Change Resistance Already!

Lead Through Personality Complexity:  Enough with Change Resistance Already! | Change Management Resources | Scoop.it

People don't resist change, they resist being changed. Enough with regurgitating this awesome quote, start THINKING about what it means!


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...there’s no way to “ensure” everyone is progressing through the change at the same rate and same intensity.

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...Explore the symptoms of resistance:


[Try] using David Kersey’s Temperaments combined with the stages of Satir:

  • Satir Change Model Stages: Old Status Quo, Foreign Element, Chaos, Transforming Idea, Practice and Integration, New Status Quo.  This model explains how people respond to change physically, psychologically and logically.
David Kersey’s Temperaments (Carl Jung based):

  • SP (Artisans): Live for the chaos! Love the excitement... inventing problems that might not exist so they have “something to solve.
  • SJ (Guardians): Fight to preserve the status quo because it’s familiar...because they don’t want to dive into chaos until they know every possible detail of the change
  • NF (Harmonizers): Help people through the pain of chaos...Will want to not implement a change if it’ll upset the ‘herd.’
  • NT (Rationals): Fly through the change when it appeases their logic and moves on to the next change before anyone else has integrated the first change.


...Imagine...a team with people [with] competing preferences trying to make sense of an Agile transformation? How about if you have Artisans [the author of this piece - Jason Little] keeping the organization in a constant state of chaos?    ....Now I realize it isn’t “the other people”, it’s my approach.  


 ...I need to know when to push, and when to lay off...and I didn’t even touch the hundreds of cognitive biases that affect how people respond to change. 


...you cannot put a budget and schedule on change, there’s no way to “ensure” everyone is progressing through the change at the same rate and same intensity.



Related tools & posts by Deb:

  • Stay in touch with Best of the Best news, taken from Deb's  NINE multi-gold award winning curation streams from @Deb Nystrom, REVELN delivered once a month via email, available for free here,via REVELN Tools.    

     

             

     


Deb Nystrom, REVELN's insight:

Leading through complexity is an essential element of change management.  This post  is a good reminder of the layers of difference in change adoption - useful for Jungians - and the MBTI familiar  (Myers Briggs, Keirsey) as well as those using similar personality tools.  


It's also a good reminder for leaders, who know the nuances of any personality assessment.  It highlights that your perspective is quite limited.  Different perspectives of those on your leadership team, if they are diverse and helpful in their differences, and speak up, is of great value in true leadership teamwork.  ~  D

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Philippe Vallat's curator insight, May 19, 2014 5:06 PM

Because complexity management has something to do with emergence, and emergence leads to change...

Deb Nystrom, REVELN's comment, July 19, 2014 3:34 PM
Some great shares here. Thanks for the comments and thanks everyone!