Archive for July, 2017

Antifragility

Nassim Taleb, best known for his book on Black Swan events (events that are typically random and are unexpected) has introduced a new word into the management and leadership lexicon – ANTIFRAGILE.

He starts with the deceptively simple proposition that the opposite of fragile is not robust. In his book of the same name he introduces the concept of the Antifragile.

The concept of fragility is very familiar to us. It applies to things that break when you strike or stretch them with a relatively small amount of force. Porcelain cups are fragile.

Things that do not break so easily when you apply force or stress to them we call strong or resilient, even robust. A cast-iron pan, for instance. This is familiar conceptual territory for most of us.

However, there is a third category here that is often overlooked. It includes those things that actually get stronger or improve when they are met with a stressor (up to a point). Illustratively, he points to safety in the airline industry that exists today due to crashes in the past. It is a safer way to travel because of past “breakages”, so to speak.

This antifragile property can be said to apply to living things generally, as in the famous aphorism ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’. For example, we are now beginning to realize just how much children who are raised in what we might call “dirty” environments (e.g. some parts of India) have much stronger immune systems than those raised in more sterile “western” world conditions. Strangely, we don’t really have a word for this property, this opposite of fragility. For Taleb, all complex systems (like societies, economic systems, businesses etc.) have, or must confront this property in some way. Read More…

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Mission impossible – engineered culture change

Tim Dalmau has often spoken about culture change being an oxymoron.  Download and read this paper to find out why!

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Promethean organizations – where only science and technology can deliver a better world

For the Greeks, Prometheus was the saviour of mankind and a god of science and technology.

Prometheus was the saviour of mankind quite specifically, because he did not much approve of womankind.

The Prometheus myth is a fantasy of setting people free from the power of the gods, of inevitable progress towards a better world, of gaining control over natural forces. It is a fantasy that has had enormous power in the history of Western civilization, especially in the past three hundred years. Indeed, civilization has come to be defined in terms of the gifts that Prometheus can bring: science, the machine and the better world that only they can deliver. This is a peculiarly masculine fantasy, for science and technology have been peculiarly male domains. Read More…

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