The Antifragile Advantage
Breaking: stay at home order extends another 3 weeks. These words carry fear and uncertainty for many. Economic distress and unemployment are already through the roof. The load of another shutdown extension will strain the fibers of our safety nets, breaking them entirely for many. It’s exposure to stress that reveals weak areas in a system. And many systems in our lives have shown vulnerability in this latest stress test.
In these times, simply being able to meet basic human-needs merits gratitude. Just before the onset of COVID, I was working for a hobby-industry small business and had just notified my employer that I would be leaving in three weeks to join TEC. Later that week, COVID hit like a freight train, and just like that, our shop was closed. Anxiety set in. Will TEC close too? Will I still be hired? Am I stuck in socioeconomic purgatory? I spent the next two weeks without employment, wondering if I dismissed myself from the working economy at the worst time possible.
True to their word, TEC did still hire me on the originally set date, with open arms. The shutdown did close the physical office, but operations continued remotely, and construction could still take place (with modified guidelines.) That TEC enabled me to start employment and generate income as COVID escalated brought me an immediate sense of humanity within the company. But also, it brought a powerful cognizance: TEC is antifragile. This is a concept that stuck with me after reading Naseem Talib’s work but remained unrealized until now. As Talib states, antifragile refers to “things that gain from disorder.” Any anxiety regarding my new employer’s financial health and my job stability quickly morphed to empowerment as I realized we were built to perform in times like this.
Most conventional companies are structured so their success is contingent upon a healthy economic state. This seems sensible, as it feels familiar to surf the same ebbs and flows in business as in personal life. However, in the event of dramatic economic swings, unpredictability becomes a vulnerability.
More resilient companies can weather economic swings and navigate trend shifts with minimal loss. They’ll armor up by making some cuts and running lean, and they’ll survive. Sure, certain industries are naturally resilient, such as transportation, food, and banking sectors. But even in these essential industries, the pressure from the big-picture economic squeeze will reward those companies which have the most robust infrastructure and resource chains, while killing off those which are less developed. “Essential” industry placement alone does not guarantee survival.
Antifragile companies, however, have the rare ability to thrive when things swing in the wrong direction. This is TEC. Compared to conventional and resilient companies, we are poised to choose fight, not flight. The nature of our business is to respond when things go wrong: When storms inflict damage on homes, we respond. When roofs leak and threaten the well-being of homes, we act. When the economy sinks into a depression, we give. Even in times of COVID crisis, we are active and providing valuable, essential services. This means we can stick to our core values and continue to make decisions focused on long-term success, rather than having to respond with short-sighted actions.
It’s vital to remember that our antifragility — our ability to thrive in times of turmoil — is rare. In contrast, many people are struggling just to survive. Remember that our antifragility is not about capitalizing on misfortune, but about carrying out essential services because we are in the rare camp that can. It’s our duty to continue to serve customers with value and integrity; in doing this, we win as humans, and as a company.
Through this extreme social and economic flux, I’m grateful to be part of a company that is positively antifragile. We are able to continue providing valuable, essential services as a business, but more so as a group of kindhearted human beings. I’m proud to be part of a team that affords stability, rewards generosity with generosity, and allows me to grow professionally and personally; especially in chaotic times.