The antifragile career choice

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My favourite book last year was Antifragile by Nassim Taleb.

It’s a hard read with lots of big ideas, and definitely worth the effort.

The basic premise of the book is that the opposite of fragile isn’t robust, as we might think, but anti-fragile.

Something fragile will get broken by shock (volatility, randomness, disorder and stressors). Something robust can survive these shocks. And Taleb has coined the phrase antifragile for those things that actually benefit from shocks.

There are three different career choices, or ways to make an income. The first is a job – working for someone else’s organisation. The second is a business – own the organisation that employs others. And the third is a practice (the thing we bang on about at Thought Leaders) – based on your expertise.

I think these three options fit Taleb’s theory quite neatly.

A job is clearly fragile. While it has the illusion of stability (the same paycheque comes in each week) you are only ever one email away from losing the job completely. (Of course there are things you can do to reduce the fragility of your career – by bolstering your skills, capabilities and relationships).

A business is fragile at worst and robust at best. The businesses that are ripe for disruption are fragile – it doesn’t matter how good you were at running your video rental business; when the industry changed, you were out of business. A good business is robust – it will survive changes. But a business is rarely ever improved by shocks to the system.

However, I believe that well-run thought leaders practice is antifragile. Having multiple domains of expertise, multiple markets and multiple delivery modes (in other words, what we would call multiple clusters) means that as things change your thinking gets better and your clusters evolve and improve. The GFC sent lots of businesses under … and made lots of practices stronger as they evolved to meet changing markets and changing needs.

It’s part of the genius of my friend and Thought Leaders founder Matt Church’s cluster model, which is the core of the Thought Leaders Curriculum. It gives us the blueprint for an antifragile business model.