By Jesse Lipson, an EO Raleigh Durham member and founder of ShareFile
What can weightlifting teach us about building a better business? I recently read Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, and have been thinking about how his antifragile theory applies to running a business. Taleb’s concept of antifragility builds on a premise framed in his earlier book, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. “Black swan” events—large and dramatic shifts in our economic and social systems—drive the most significant opportunities and results in business, he argues, and yet are virtually impossible to model or predict.
So in Antifragile, Taleb suggests we stop trying to predict the future and focus on protecting against something that we can more easily measure: fragility. Something is fragile if it breaks with small changes in the environment. A system is antifragile if it actually thrives on chaos, growing stronger when the unexpected occurs. It’s like weightlifting: Your business is antifragile when it’s composed of more muscle than bone. Yes, bones can recover from a break, but often in a weakened state. Meanwhile, a muscle is strengthened by damage. Weightlifters build muscle by pushing it past the limit. A stressed muscle is riven with tiny tears, and as the muscle repairs itself, it rebuilds stronger and bigger than before.