Mar 15, 2018

An Antifragile Sculpture

By: Jacob Smith

Nonprofits Strategy

In his book Antifragile, Nassim Nicholas Taleb offers a compelling vision of how to cope with normal, radical, unpredictable change.

These sculptures are a perfect example of "things that gain from disorder." They are shipped as boring flat pieces of metal but arrive as unique sculptures that subtly speak to their journey.

Optimization is an important discipline, but it has to be coupled with relentless exploration into sub-optimal strategies.

If you invest all of your effort into your optimal strategy and some outside force renders that strategy ineffective, what do you do? This isn't a theoretical question, look at direct mail. It is still a great fundraising tool, but it will likely be obsolete at scale in the next decade.

If your entire organization is geared around the economies of direct mail, when it becomes untenable you won't be able to continue. Even worse if you see this demise on the horizon and choose not to diversify you will seal your fate.

The question is are you willing to sacrifice efficiency now for survival later? All highly optimized businesses will fail when the underlying assumptions change. Highly diverse businesses may not achieve optimized profits over the short term, but their long term survival is assured.

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