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Solace blog

19th May 2016

Beyond robustness and resilience

I have recently been reading a book kindly passed on to me, called Antifragile, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. On the first page of this book, it reads ‘Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors; and love adventure, risk, and uncertainty. Yet in spite of the ubiquity of the phenomenon, there is no word for the exact opposite of fragile. Let’s call it antifragile. And antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness’.

Evidence everywhere around us suggests we are living in VUCA times: Volatile – where challenges are unexpected and last for an unknown amount of time; Uncertain – unable to predict with certainty how everyday situations will unfold; Complex – with many complicated parts that all interact together to create an impact; and Ambiguous – where facing unknown unknowns is an everyday occurrence. To thrive in this kind of environment, we quite possibly need to become ‘antifragile’.

I have been wondering if ‘antifragile’ is beyond resilience and robustness then what is it? The teachings of neurolinguistic programming (NLP) and the many wonderful, practical conversations I have had with my close colleagues have inspired me to think more about what it means to be resourceful. I wonder, therefore, could it be possible that the opposite to being fragile is being resourceful?

As an example, something that is real for me right now, (at the time of writing this blog) I am pregnant with my second child. I remember the feeling from my first pregnancy, the mixture of excitement and fear for the unknown ahead.

This time I have a slight sense of what is ahead, having been here once before (or have I?). However, I do wonder (and sometimes worry) about the unpredictable unknowns ahead. What day will this little one grace our lives? Will he have dark eyes and blonde hair like his older brother? How will we cope with the sleepless nights? How will I once again juggle the pull of motherhood and the desire to balance a return to my career? If I allow myself to think all the negative thoughts, to seek certainty and predictability then I am likely to put myself in a fragile position.

To put myself in a resourceful place, a place where I am beyond resilience and robustness I must become comfortable with not knowing what is ahead. Comfortable with knowing that some days it won’t be as simple as I want it to be. That I will feel vulnerable as I learn how to be in this new experience. Even just writing that gives me a great sense of strength and comfort – I can let go of wanting perfection and become comfortable with knowing that I have everything within me to be totally human, a fallible and imperfect learner. If I let myself live more gently in this uncertainty and volatility, I can become more resourceful in how I learn and grow and just ‘be’ in any and every situation.

Great leaders and coaches believe that there are no unresourceful people only unresourceful states. Therefore, we all have the ability to be ‘antifragile’ by tapping into our resourcefulness allowing our beliefs, thoughts, and behaviours to give us strength and a gentle powerfulness to live freely in this VUCA space.

Someone once gave me advice that has remained with me for many years now – ‘Put yourself in the place of greatest potential’. To me, this means create resourcefulness through how I think, feel and behave so I am in the best place for me and for those that I impact around me.

What does being resourceful mean to you?

How do you put yourself in the place of greatest potential?

How do your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours impact on the resourcefulness of those around you?

By Kylie Roberts, Director, Challenger Leadership, Grant Thornton UK LLP