Tropophilia: Thriving On Uncertainty Beyond Resilience & AntiFragility!

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In order to be pro-actively disruptive, that is, having the capability to maintain a Continuous Learning Mood (CLM) to translate that learning into immediate disruptive actions, and 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., the ability to thrive on uncertainty and go beyond resilience or antifragility!

The “Experts” Say: “Culture drives business performance when it is aligned with strategy and the business environment.” Yes, everybody knows ‘Culture Eats Strategy For Breakfast’!

These “Experts” also say “Culture can be hard to understand and talk about, much less manage, because it feels elusive — so much of culture is anchored in unspoken behaviors, mindsets and social patterns.”

What these “Experts” don’t seem to understand is that culture is an emergent property of structure.

Most leaders don’t understand that their organizational culture is driven by its Structure. In other words, structure eats culture for lunch!

The world is moving fast and deeper into Black Swan Domain, fat tails, and punctuated equilibria, 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 by becoming tropophilic through Open Systems Design Principles in order to go beyond resilience and anti-fragility.

First, we need to define fragile as something that not only is easily damaged or broken but, more importantly, that does not like change or uncertainty, and cannot tolerate complexity or disorder (i.e., entropy).

The opposite, however, is not robust or resilient. Nicholas Taleb could not find a proper antonym so he settled for “antifragile.” We were not very happy with antifragile because it did not convey fully a path beyond the opposite of fragile and beyond beyond antifragility. Thus, we began our research and came up with heterotic, from heterosis or hybrid vigor, it was a bit better than antifragile but still constrained to the reproduction of biological organisms. Then, we thought of 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 a meaning beyond antifragility.

Finally, it dawned on us and came up with Tropophilia from Entropy (German En: within, and Greek Tropo: change, transformation, as in the second law of thermodynamics; and Latin Philia love for).

Tropophilia, the love for change, goes beyond antifragility and resilience because it is connected with the Entropy law and the Free-energy Principle, which, like gravity, are unidirectional i.e., go from a state of order to one of disorder and minimize the prediction error, respectively.

Fragility loves calmness and predictability for it cannot absorb any shock or disorder.

Robustness can absorb shocks and some changes but only to a certain point and does benefit from them.

Resilience is one step ahead of robustness because, even though it breaks, it bounces back to its previous. However, it remains reactive and therefore it is doomed too.

Antifragility is ahead of robustness and resilience for it does not break, it is not affected by shocks or changes. However, it does not benefit from them either.

Tropophila goes beyond antifragility because it feeds on shocks and change while minimizing free energy. Tropophilia thrives on disruption, chaos, uncertainty, and Entropy!

In a world that is moving within Black Swan Domains, characterized by increasing uncertainty, disruptions, unpredictability, and powerful impacts, only tropophilic organizations with ideal-seeking individuals will be able to thrive.

JC Wandemberg Ph.D.

President & Founder

Sustainable Systems International

About the author: Dr. Wandemberg is an international consultant, professor, and analyst of economic, environmental, social, managerial, marketing, and political issues. For the past 30 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.

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