Is your business and organization robust or antifragile? Antifragile is the opposite of fragile – things get stronger with increased pressure and force; robust things withstand pressure and force. Innovation takes businesses from fragile or robust to antifragile; getting stronger with stress.
Antifragility is a term introduced by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his book AntiFragile: Things That Gain From Disorder. I love the term because it creates a great visual for what innovation can do.
Internal Forces Creating Antifragility:
Innovation happens when companies have pressure applied to them whether internal from customers, the market or other internal forces. Companies that innovate when this force is applied are antifragile and get stronger. Internal pressure can come from leadership and strong leaders pushing for change. Change can come in the form of cultural change or organizational structure change. Innovative organizations reward innovation and are less likely to punish failure. The culture is more collaborative with people trying to figure out how to make ideas work, rather than thinking ‘Will this idea work?’
Innovation leaders are great at knowing how to create antifragile environments that lead to highly innovative environments by applying just the right amount of change. For example, P&G CEO A.G. Lafley did a phenomenal job (2000 to 2010) at turning the company upside down in how they developed products and sought solutions to problems. He was so good that he was brought back after 3 years away from the company to continue to push for innovation.
Often we see companies bring back leaders that have been phenomenal at creating antifragile and innovative environments, even after they retire. The balance of the right amount of stress or pressure is hard to achieve.
Would these organizations innovate without this pressure or stress? Unlikely. Would these organizations innovate without the leaders who put in place the factors for innovation? Without leaders looking for innovation and willing to accept changes innovation is stymied.
How do you maintain innovation without the stresses in place or once the leader has left? There are innovation processes that can be put in place to continue innovation when great innovation leaders have moved on so organizations can remain antifragile.