Antifragility Meetup Notes

I attended this NYC meetup on Wednesday, 4/15 and it really resonated. I've ordered the book that started this movement but haven't read it yet. Instead, I'm going to do something unusual. I'll post these notes and resources I've found but not read yet. In the next post, I'll add my thoughts. Then I'll read the book and links. That's because at the end of the meetup, my brain had become this weird Venn diagram where a number of things had resonated, other things were different and I realized the speaker had taken things much further, and there were other areas where I saw things and want to throw in my unbiased 2 cents worth before I research further.

Antifragility: Beyond Agility
Speaker: Si Alhir

Take a list of priorities and flip them. Deliberately stress the team(s). 

  • How quickly do they recover from this?
  • Do they ever recover? That is antifragility.


Wind extinguishes a candle and energizes fire. You want to be the fire and wish for the wind.

Use randomness, uncertainty, chaos. Use, don't hide from it.

Antifragility mindset - don't get rid of waterwall methodology, we want to keep some teams waterfall. 

  • Keep the stress to see how well we do.
  • Agile wants a stable team because they can't function if they are disbanded and regrouped, they have to relearn dynamics.
  • Antifragility will disband and recreate teams every sprint. They become robust, ready for any disruption that occurs.

VPs who constantly change their minds can have robust teams - all antifragile - that thrive on the change.

  • Antifragility goes beyond resilience or robustness.
  • Resilient resists shocks and stays the same, antifragile gets better with stress.

Black Swans - large scale unpredictable events of massive consequence

  • Impossible to calculate risks of consequential, rare events and predict occurrence.
  • Easier to figure out if something is fragile than to predict the occurrence of events that may harm it.
  • Fragility can be measured, risk is not measurable.

Fragile - Not robust enough to absorb stress.

Antifragile - Gain from stress (note: antifragility within limits).

Non-predictive decision making. Help VP become comfortable. Pull VP into unanticipated need, watch what happens.

  • Some lock up if not in their realm. Others adapt. Some engage.
  • Antifragile - Experience a different sense of reality - increase antifragility or break down... Evolution.
  • More than survival of the fittest. Don't want conflict to escalate into aggression. Manage with tension.
  • Companies try to eradicate conflict. That kills innovation.
  • Organisms need to die for nature to be antifragile - nature is opportunistic, ruthless, and selfish.

Coach - what do you do?

  • "Help make people comfortable with useful conflict" (not so much it's catastrophic).
  • "Help people deal with reality and grow from it".

Si does stressor reorganization from the inside:

  • Stress from the inside so you can identify dead wood, compete at next level.
  • But not too much to harm. Potential gain or harm.
  • What happens if you shuffle constantly? No velocity, since no history. Reality: Productivity improved 5x. Agile literature ignores, says keep teams together.

Agility involves responding to change while

Antifragility involves gaining from disorder (embrace the chaos)

"Most don't want freedom because freedom involves responsibility and most people are frightened of responsibility"

- Sigmund Freud

Company gets to 20 teams, stuck and can't scale further.

  • Retrospective - you're not carrying your weight, voted off the island (onto another team). If after 3 times this is still true, get rid of excess baggage.
  • As soon as you do, you can scale like crazy. Something has to die for something to be born.

Antifragility and fragility are degrees on a spectrum

Relative terms, not quite absolute depending on sources of harm/volatility, up to a range of exposure (before you get hurt)

At worst: unharmed.

At best: nothing to lose.

Unleash change requests. You'll be amazed at the degree of growth. Create enough noise.

(Reminds me of my blog post:

If you had a Maserati, why would you keep the emergency brake on?


Map of the World


(Whole - Part - Parts)





Exposed to negative

Black Swans

Exposed to positive

Black Swans



Efficiency / optimized



Small but specialized



Small but not specialized

Functional redundancy







"Without skin in the game"


Short Option (hurt by options)


"With skin in the game"

Venture capital

"With soul in the game"

Bimodal (barbell)

Long Option (benefit from options)

Positive vs negative black swans 

  • Negative: "Who are our competitors? We need to emulate." Fragile
  • Positive: "Where are our opportunities, what is the next disruption?" Antifragile.

Tourist: Fly into city and then decide what to do, instead of planning things. Antifragility.

Map of the World


(Dynamics - Randomness & Stress - Response - Results)





Centralized power/control

Statutory law/code

Code of regulations



Decentralized power/control

Common law/code

Heuristic regulations



& Stress

Concentrated source of


Chronic stressors

Distributed sources of


Acute stressors with recovery


Produces irreversible, large


Hates mistakes

Mistakes are just


Produces reversible, small


Loves mistakes


Post-traumatic syndrome

Post-traumatic growth

Defects = mistakes 


Defects = what did we learn?

Rationalism / empiricism / skepticism

Rationalism vs. empiricism

Operationalizing Antifragility


(Stakeholders, Enterprises, and Ecosystem)


(Teaming, Communities, and Focal/Schelling Points)


(Adaptive Cycles and Panarchy)

How do you create teams?

  • Teaming, coined deliberately to capture the activity of wokring together, presents a new, more flexible way for organizations to carry out interdependent tasks.
  • Unlike the traditional concept of a team, teaming is an active process, not a static entity. Imagine a fluid network of interconnected individuals working in temporary teams on improvement, problem solving, and innovation.

Decomposed SAFe into Antifragile SAFe

How do you balance disruption from constant disbanding? Stickiness through communities (glue)

Opportunities shift in real time. e.g. Create a community around Brian, who is interested in innovations

A community of practice (CoP) is 

a group of people with a common passion for something they do.

A CoP involves a domain (joint enterprise or subjejct),

community (mutual engagement for sharing and learning), and

practice (shared repertoire of resources).

An effective organization is composed of a

constellation of interconnected CoPs.

CoPs span organizational structures.

CoPs form around real business problems.

Destroy paradigms and theories at will

Focal/Schelling Points

In game theory, a focal point (also called Schelling point) is a


that people will tend to use

in the absence of communication

, because it

seems natural, special, or relevant

to them.

Adaptive cycles and panarchy

 - something has to die for something to be born. Remove sharp objects. Start from scratch.

Design for antifragility

  • This makes companies extremely uncomfortable
  • Stresses C level folks

Change Intelligence - identify leadership style

  • Antifragility Change Leader - cultivate leaders that are antifragile, we can test for this.
  • Webinar next week.
  • Panel on May 6 to talk about concept and how practitioners are using this.
  • How is a doctor antifragile in the operating room? Patient is open, it's chaotic. Doctors compete for control. God complex.

They've created the first certification for antifragility.

You need focal points - some have more stressors, others don't.

  • Something stable to let anchors shift, e.g. product, "we meet at Starbucks every Thu at 4pm", etc.
  • Can't be pure chaos.

If you throw a coach out - it's because they're a bad coach. They need to know stress levels.

Client can break out in tears but you need to be able to pull them back.

"I can never get on Crystal's calendar." Follow her to the bathroom so you get her for 3 minutes.

  • vs. everyone else who is stymied because they can't get on Crystal's calendar.
  • Don't apply a solution relative to competitors, surpass the disruptor.
  • We're looking for the main pain points - 80/20, or 90/10. What 10% will let me grow?

Other (some upcoming):