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What’s the opposite of fragile?

By Ruben de Neef – International Partnerships at Luscii




Her fingertips are clinched onto the rail of the airplane. Her feet are dangling in the air and her heart beats fiercely in her chest. Inside the plane, my teammate Chris moves from his seat to the open door, grabs her hands and looks her straight into the eyes:

“You have to trust me, this is my accountability.”

With one strong move he lifts her hands up and throws her into the deep. Her eyes grow bigger, she wants to shout but can’t make a sound…

And then Puneet wakes up.

It’s her first week at Luscii and her dreams are very vivid. The symbolism in her dream isn’t too hard to read.

She’s adapting to our lingo and the way we’re organised. Because the way we’re organised is… different from most companies.

At Luscii we don’t have a board to set strategies. Or managers that set targets or allocate resources.

Our purpose is our north star and everyone can create roles or circles (closest thing to a department), with accountabilities that one thinks to be beneficial to our mission.

This practice is called holacracy, and it enables us to react quickly to a changing environment and actually benefit from it.

“Luscii aims to empower patients and save healthcare professionals time by designing care paths that are independent from place and time.”

This power to benefit from disorder, uncertainty and even stress is called antifragility, a term coined by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his book with the same title.

We all know what fragile means. Fragile things break when you shock them and toss them around – volatility does a box full of glass no good.

But what’s the opposite of fragile? Robust? Durable? Resilient? Words we might have seen in year plans of our organisation.

But that really just means it can resist shocks and stress better than fragile things – it doesn’t benefit from them.

To understand antifragile, just look at yourself: when you exercise, the fragile parts, the tissue in your muscles, is broken down. That failure is reported to your system.

And then, for future success, your body overcompensates for this shock, by building extra capacity to handle even bigger shocks better.

Our healthcare system is going through quite some shocks already and the next shock, ageing, is looming on us.

But building extra care capacity from flesh and bones is simply impossible. (Perhaps a digital team member who never sleeps could help with that?)

So how do you help your organisation to become antifragile in the eye of change?

The first step is to become comfortable with change in the first place. At Luscii, we’re all encouraged to continuously come up with changes to improve the way we work.

And for every proposal, there’s just one question to test its viability: “Is it safe enough to try?”. If yes, let’s try it! We can always change it again. And again.

Now what if you replaced the default reaction in your team (e.g. “But, will it work?”) with this question? It might be scary, but perhaps… it’s safe enough to try?

For us it works, because thanks to that question, we haven’t thrown anyone out of a plane. Yet.

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