John Hagel wrote a good review of Nassim Taleb’s book “Antifragile“. Hagel’s book “The Power of Pull” describes a shift in the world from push systems to pull systems. The push system is the epitome of formalize, automated systems. The kind of system that was designed by someone with what I call “enlightenment bias”. They attempt to anticipate everything that might happen, and provide well considered options for it.
Push systems are falling into exactly the same trap that Taleb is worried about: attempting to model system around what we know, means that what we don’t know hits us harder. An IT system designed to compensate for the problems we can anticipate, makes us more vulnerable to the unexpected “black swans”.
Pull Systems on the other hand are not centrally planned. They can be adapted by the people on the edge. This is allow people using the system to use their intelligence, and it allows the system as a whole (IT and humans) to respond effectively to change. So pull systems have the quality of antifragility. I completely agree, and think that an ACM system is one example of a pull system.
Hagel lists a set of 7 system design principles that we might follow to help avoid making systems that are fragile:
- Stick to Simple Rules – don’t attempt to model complexity, but rather let humans fill the gap with real intelligence.
- Develop layered systems
- Build in redundancy – avoid the tempation to reduce action to the minimum necessary to do the job, in a misguided attempt to reduce costs.
- Resist urge to suppress randomness – uniformity is not the goal.
- Ensure everyone has skin in the game – it is about shared responsibility, not elimination of any need to know who is responsible.
- Give higher status to practitioners rather than theoreticians – the theories are mostly wrong, but the practitioners are the ones who know it.
He also lists 12 strategies for antifragility:
- Pursue barbell approaches
- Focus on options
- Be curious
- Get out of your comfort zone
- Focus on the edge
- Conduct lots of experiments and tinker
- Don’t get consumed by data
- Focus on building/accessing tacit knowledge rather than rationality and explicit knowledge
- Focus on subtractive knowledge
- collaborate and trade
- respect the old
- beware of wealth, debt, and reputation
Hagel’s review is highly thoughtful, and helps explain how Taleb’s ideas relate to Push and Pull system, and the Big Shift.