Antifragile decisions and enterprise debt

I often try to catch and at least skim through blog posts via Sinan Si Alhir’s (@SAlhir) twitter feed as they often offer interesting insights on various subjects. A while ago I had an epiphany when reading one of his blog posts about a perspective on  Nassim Nicholas Taleb‘s (@nntalebantifragility concept.

In Sinan Si Alhir’s blog post I was inspired by the mix of Taleb’s concept together with Jan Husdal’s (@janhusdal) thoughts on flexibility, agility, robustness and resilience.

I was at the time thinking about different ways of explaining to top level management how and why they have contributed to building enterprise debt and how they can actively work on avoiding it in the future. I needed something visual and simplified so that it could be used on any level within the organization and in any business area.

One of the reasons why we today have to deal with large enterprise debts is that the awareness of how to make decisions that are future-proof is low. How to make decsions have also shifted over time. For many years our decision making have been characterised by a gut feeling that decisions should be robust and resilient. The notion to create something that endures over time. Unfortunately in many areas what was robust 10-20 years ago is no longer robust today.

Let us first briefly expand a bit on how we make decisions. I hope most agree that we make decisions on feelings. Some may argue facts. But in reality it is how we interpret the facts and how our gut feeling is when we are presented with the facts. Gut feelings are based on experience and knowledge. Both of which may be wrong today. Experience drawn from situations in the past may not be applicable today. Knowledge aquired in the past may not be as viable as it once was – just think about what happened to Michael Porter‘s Monitor Group, and why.

We live in a world where the rate of change is accelerating to a point where it is difficult to adequately adapt conceptually, logically and physically fast enough to handle changes in a good way. This coupled with incorrect gut feelings are the main reasons why we continue to accumulate enterprise debt. What once undeniably were robust and resilient decisions, now become fragile and vulnerable – and at a steadily increasing pace.

Antifragile decision model

With flexible decisions we consciously make room for known or probable changes. When we reach agile decisions we are also prepared for unknown and unexpected changes – we have increased our capability of adaptation. It really is this capability that I want to cultivate by using and explaining my model for modern decision making.

When we strive for agile decision making this makes our organization more antifragile in comparison to others.

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