Most of us agree that we are really only at the base of a massive mountain of change.
Leaders will need to look at their organizations and the world differently. We will all need to unlearn what we think we know and create anew.
We will need to ask ourselves:
- How do we as an organization thrive with the challenges of planetary pressures and the opportunities presented by exponential technologies?
- How do we think through and devise strategies for a time of increasing volatility, ambiguity, and uncertainty?
Of course, it is one thing to devise plans, and another to live them out.
- What if we get it wrong and the future goes in a direction that we did not see?
- What if we have blindsides to the fragilities to our current models?
In September 2019, we had a very different view of the start of the 2020s than the one that manifested. For the remainder of the decade, seeing through the haze of a V.U.C.A. (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world in flux will be a close to impossible task, but that does not mean we need to be in a state of paralysis.
We can iterate our way forward by having the courage to explore our fragilities (so we can make sure we have fortified the core of our businesses) while taking options on massive possible upsides that the future could bring.
This is what is at the heart of Nassim Taleb’s book, “Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder”.
Antifragile strategies go beyond the grim “resilience” mindset that we hear so much of today, where we brace for the impending storm, and instead create models of “Right to Thrive” in the future. There are two core elements to this approach (called the Barbell Strategy).
Barbell strategies focus on:
- Exploring the fragilities of our current business, and how extreme outcomes in the external situations, like Covid 19, or a blocked Suez Canal, or unsolved SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) could completely disrupt our business.
- Embracing the volatile, uncertain nature of the future and taking smart options on possible futures with massive upsides.
There are two streams on innovation that arise from this strategy:
- Fortifying Core Innovations – designed to ensure that the disruptions do not upend the core business.
- Raiding Parties to the Future Options – designed to profit from speculative upsides, while not betting the farm on them.
Both of these streams have at their core cultural change and thinking skills that enable a questioning environment and that fosters courageous, model-challenging thinking, and action.
The beauty of this approach is that you do not need to make certainty-out-of-uncertainty, instead you need to very intentionally see far enough in the haze, and then take options with large upsides.
Courageous leadership in a V.U.C.A future will depend on many of the traditional skills of leadership, combined with the need to adapt through unlearning, reframing mindsets, and mastering new skills.
This takes courage, creative thinking, and knowledge of key trends and how they are going to adjust the operating models of our economies, industries, and societies. It is important work and is needed to enable the planet, people, and our economies to thrive.
If you are looking to apply Antifragile Thinking to thrive in the future, Be Courageous can help you.
By Paul D. Roberts