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Building Resilience Against Obstacles

Difference in Strategy

March 21, 2022

Strategy can be reflected in building the capability to remain productive during times of strife, adverse conditions or resource scarcity. But how do you set strategies in place effectively to ensure that you are truly antifragile?

It would be an oversimplification to state that in the scientific community there are only two groups of scientists, but for the sake of our discussion, let’s divide scientists up into “Physicists” and “Chemists.”

Physicists trend more toward concrete variables such as measurements of physical force — vectors ?— and things such as momentum. Chemists deal in substances and combinations that create other substances or cause reactions — such as catalysts.

The way these two groups look at problems and solutions are different. A vector force is different than a catalytic reaction in how it is measured, how it is observed and the net effect.

The stress on a beam is different than the stress on a fluid reacting to being applied to that same beam. The beam may fail either way, but the mechanism that causes the failure is different and needs to be analyzed and understood by individuals with different types of expertise.

Building Resilience + Sustainability

Being antifragile really is defined by being able to anticipate and react to adversity. In my example above, if my organizational strategy manifests itself as a bridge over the Des Moines River, then it pays to have a chemist and a physicist on my design team, to contemplate any potential condition that may put the bridge in harm’s way, using the widest array of possible anticipated problems. It moves the needle from “unforeseen” to “able to foresee” in a way that builds long-term resilience and sustainability.

Additionally, there is another value in having these two different types of individuals. The way they are trained to address and solve problems is different. Solving a physics problem can be linear and mathematical, while a chemistry lab can take trial and error, and might manifest more as more abstract/educated testing, resulting in the desired solution.

The interplay of those two types of training, when working on a problem together means that you will have two different experts with two different types of training working to develop a solution from multiple venues of thought.

That seeming disorder, from conflicting schools of thought, can produce a preparedness or anticipate the unanticipated by virtue of the interactions in their differences. The different methodologies that can be employed in finding a solution can the differentiating factor in how antifragile you are when circumstances call for it. This is order built from disorder, run through the developmental filter of careful consideration in advance of need. Preparedness, rather than necessity, being the mother of invention.

Problems can call for a vector solution or for a catalyzing agent. Sometimes they call for both in some sort of balance. Strategies that are developed by a mix of factors that balance different schools of thought in problem shaping and solution finding can alter the outcome of any turbulent situation; your bridge will be prepared for not only an extreme force, but years of chemical spills, wind and whatever other types of threats may be exerted. You can’t always prepare for when something might happen to interfere with your strategy, but you can prepare for if and what might happen.

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Joseph R. Benesh

Joe Benesh is the president and CEO of the Ingenuity Company, a strategic planning, organizational development and design thinking firm based in Des Moines. He can be reached at joe@ingenuitycompany.com and (305) 450-9120.