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09 2013

A Good Example of Antifragility Thinking

Syndicated from: balance-AND-results

A friend and reader of the posts on Antifragility pointed out a great example of where it applies. He noted, as others have, that we use antifragile strategies fairly often without having had a name for them. My point, and the point of the book, Antifragile, is simply that having a name helps us by keeping us aware this is a unique way to approach things. It’s different from trying to build purely robust or strong systems, which we may not have the resources or ability to do in every situation. Careers are definitely an area where having an antifragile strategy can work very well. You may have a robust career going but, as the author points out, if a catastrophe happens in your industry or sector, that may not suffice. What you need is a strategy that offers options, different directions and approaches you can take to getting the next job. This sort of ‘other options’ approach can be built in different ways by different people. Another example would seem to be the story of a rapid rise by a 36-year old CFO and Chief Strategy Officer from a start in the mail room. On one hand you could read this as a strong individual impressing the right people in a single company and ask whether this person would do as well if his explosive rise had indeed blown up and he’d had to move to another organization. However there looks to be pretty good reason to assume that the numerous skills Mr. Bolinder developed would help him in quite a few places – especially when you note the changes in career streams within his short path – from mail room to sales to accounting to CFO to Strategy chief. So it isn’t necessarily the fact you work in government or, as I did for a long time, education that positions you as a potential victim if big layoffs occur, but rather whether you have, in the words of the oft repeated saying, ‘put in 20 years doing the same year over and over or put in 20 years learning continually to seek and master new challenges each year.’ It isn’t the situation or the organization that limits you or allows you to build an antifragile career, but rather how you behave year to year in your career. As you can see again from these examples, it isn’t that these strategies never existed before or that no one ever tried explaining. I always recommend to job seekers the huge value of offering to take on something new, volunteering for ‘extra’ duties, task forces or committees. It’s not so you can simply add that note to your resume, though that definitely helps at times, but so you get the learning available as you take on new challenges. As a side note I usually say, ‘don’t volunteer for the same stuff you’ve done a dozen times before, but for things that seem new and potentially interesting learning opportunities.’ Let someone else who hasn’t done it before try the old volunteer work so you can both learn new things and add to your value to the organization and to yourselves. Does this suggest you should not ‘build on strengths’ (which is one of the new mantras of work)? No. But it suggests the key word in that phrase is “BUILD” on them, don’t just stick to, repeat, exercise your strengths and ignore the value of learning more in and around and beyond them. By the same logic, it is incumbent on organizations and leaders to see that people have the encouragement and opportunities to do this. Where I often hear managers ruminating about their misfortune of having a great employee who wants to do something different and, worst of all, potentially leave the unit to do it, we need leaders who actively seek to help people take exactly those steps. In the long run everyone benefits. Bookmark and share this post More »

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