Tropophilia: Thriving On Uncertainty Beyond Resilience & AntiFragility!
In order to be pro-actively adaptive having the capability to maintain a Continuous Learning Mood (CLM) and to translate that learning into immediate actions, and also to anticipate and create change as the ultimate competitive advantage, organizations must be fully based on Open Systems Design Principles and deploy Tropophilia, i.e., to thrive on uncertainty and go beyond resilience or antifragility.
The world is moving fast and deeper into Black Swan Domain, fat tails, and punctuated equilibriums, also known as singularities. These situations call for tropophilic organizational structures, i.e., structures that thrive on entropy, for these structures embody the essential components of the future enterprise in the face of black swan events and uncertainty.
In the words of Nicholas Taleb
“… a Black Swan is an event with the following three attributes:
First, it is an outlier, as it lies outside the realm of regular expectations because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility.
Second, it carries an extreme ‘impact’.
Third, in spite of its outlier status, human nature makes us concoct explanations for its occurrence after the fact, making it retrospectively predictable.”
Summarizing Taleb’s Black Swan attributes, these are rare, extremely impactful, and retrospectively predictable events. These events are the result, of collective and individual subjectivity and narrow-mindedness e.g, Brexit, Trump, etc..
The ‘beauty’ of Black Swan events is not only that they explain almost everything in the world, from the successful/failed ideas and the dynamics of history, to elements of our own personal lives but, even more importantly, that these events will clearly determine the future of humanity as it moves, ever faster, towards Taleb’s lower-right quadrant, i.e., Black Swan domain.
How To Make The Most Of Black Swan Events?
The obvious answer is to become tropophilic by following Open Systems Design Principles in order to go beyond resilience and fragility!
First, we need to define fragile as something that not only is easily damaged or broken but, more importantly, that does not like uncertainty, and cannot tolerate complexity or disorder (i.e., entropy).
The opposite, however, is not robust or not easily damaged or broken. Nassim Taleb could not find a proper antonym so he settled for “antifragile.” I could not believe there was no antonym for fragile so I began my research and came up first with salient, from resilience, but it did not quite convey all the meaning of antifragility. Then I came up with heterotic, from heterosis or hybrid vigor, it was a bit better but still constrained to the reproduction of biological organisms. Then, I found Betaphilic, which has to to do with beta decay in nuclear physics, and the beta coefficient with volatility in finance, but still did not convey 100% the meaning of antifragility.
Finally, it dawned on me and came up with Tropophilic from Entropy (German En: within, and Greek Tropo: change, transformation; as in the second law of thermodynamics).
Tropophilia, thus, goes beyond antifragility and resilience because it goes hand in hand with the Entropy law which, like gravity is unidirectional i.e., goes from a state of order to one of disorder.
Fragility loves calmness and predictability for it cannot absorb any shock or disorder.
Robustness can absorb shocks and change but only to a certain point and does benefit from them.
Resilience is one step ahead of robustness but remains reactive and takes you back to a previous state before a fall and it does not benefit from shocks,.
Antifragility is ahead of robustness and resilience for it is not affected by change but it does not benefit from it either.
Tropophila feeds on change and thrives on disruption, disorder, stressors, shocks, and Entropy!
In a world that is moving within Black Swan Domains, characterized by increasing uncertainty, disruptions, unpredictability, and powerful impacts, only tropophilic organizations will be able to thrive.
Designing For Tropophilia: Building Beautifully Tropophilic Organisations!
When a sudden random event hits you, it makes you stronger if it does not kill you, i.e., it helps you develop tropophilia. In other words, it makes you more than antifragile and better able to deal efficiently with the impact of future improbables.
From biology, we know that heterosis (i.e., hybrid vigor or outbreeding enhancement of the offspring) comes about when the best traits of the parents are passed onto the offspring, as opposed to inbreeding.
A simple example of proactive heterosis or saliency is human vaccination. By taking a small hit now, through a vaccine, one can anticipate a major hit in the future by proactively building one’s immune system and thus one’s saliency, heterosis, betaphilia, and, eventually, tropophilia.
Tropophilia incorporates proactiveness and removes asymmetries and monocultures. It builds symmetries and heterosis. Ensures that the minority (with skin in the game) rules the game!
Tropophilia is built by the continuous directive correlation between the system and its environment.
Thus, further developing error-reducing-benefit-maximizing organizational structures where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Most HR efforts, if not all, are reactive practices based on signs and symptoms, such as employee disengagement, lack of empowerment, poor leadership, and conflicting assessments. Hence, they focus primarily on risks and vulnerabilities and not on strengths or capacities, let alone on tropophilia!
Low engagement and accountability (no skin in the game) continue to cost the global economy over $1 trillion annually and the 2017 Elderman Trust Barometer reveals a sharp decline in engagement and accountability across all sectors of business, private and public, especially with millennials who abhor restrictive organizations without a higher purpose.
Employers continue to be the victims of “expert” advice and struggle to determine what constitutes “best practices.” Best practices serve little purpose, if any, in Black Swan Domain.
If you get caught unprepared in a Black Swan Domain it will be devastating. The only way to prepare your company is by making it Tropophilic ensuring that every employee has a Day-1-Always attitude!
Living organisms can defy the misleading gloss on the second law of thermodynamics (Entropy), “They take disorganized bits and pieces of matter, and put them together in fiendishly complex and refined ways”. This is Tropophilia in action!
To the health of your Tropophilic Organisation!
JC Wandemberg Ph.D.
About the author: Dr. Wandemberg is the Dean of Woxsen School of Arts & Design and an international consultant, professor, and analyst of economic, environmental, social, managerial, marketing, and political issues. For the past 25 + years Dr. Wandemberg has collaborated with corporations, communities, and organizations to integrate sustainability through self-transformation processes and Open Systems Design Principles, thus, catalyzing a Culture of Trust, Transparency, and Integrity.
Note: The comments presented here are the full responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the view of Sustainable Systems International or Woxsen School of Arts & Design.