Nassim Taleb’s Antifragile book has this subtitle: ‘Things that gain from disorder’. This is a model for the new organization and its new management.
There are three types of organizations:
- Non-responsive, not reactive (to markets, to environment), rigid, tunnel vision and the rest. They sometimes are obsessive with comparing themselves with an obvious competitor, the boat next door, not realising that there is a full Regatta out there. This type is either dying, or in the Intensive Care Unit, or not feeling very well.
- The ones everybody talks about as the model: reactive, responsive, flexible, adaptable, resilient, with great plasticity, etc. “Flexibility’ is probably the most abused managerial term ever. But certainly this Type 2 are navigating well and competing with each other.
- There is a third type that includes the attributes of (2) but go beyond that: they renew and reinvent themselves; they seem to be ahead of the game all the time. A subset may be the ones that have suffered a massive attack (markets, environment) but have always come out of the fight stronger. Note that whilst Type (2) copes with adversity, and does well, Type (3) comes out stronger and healthier after adversity. They seem to ‘gain from disorder’ as Taleb would have put it. An Antifragile type therefore. This type (3) suffers from Post Traumatic Strength Disorder. It gets better and better all the time, not just restoring a baseline after hardship.
I want a number (3) please. But they don’t sell it in a box. You have to travel that journey. I think we have some idea of good maps, good CEO-explorers, good people, conquistadores and a decent toolkit for the journey. Just a bit scary, that’s all.
Talking about this journey is for another day. But as a reflection now, can we acknowledge that:
(a) ‘Flexibility’ is not enough. Adaptation is short-term survival, so not enough.
(b) ‘Robustness’ is a bad word. Too robust may take you to Type (1), you know the one that being so robust it forgot how to react.
(c) Re-invention and renewal is the real driver, even if we are not quite sure about the right dose and pace.
Maybe, just maybe, if we have the Post Traumatic Strength Disorder in mind, we could ask ourselves, are we better off after ‘the crisis’, or just alive and well? How can we be ahead of the game next time, and next time? The question is the starting point.