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2015 TOCICO International Conference

Executive Track Keynote Presentation

Alan Barnard
Goldratt Research Labs (USA)

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Really?
September 6, 2015

Nassim Taleb, the bestselling author of The Black Swan and one of the foremost thinkers of our time, revealed in his new book titled "Antifragile: Things that gain from disorder” how to thrive in an uncertain world. Just as human bones get stronger when subjected to stress and tension, many things in life benefit from stress, disorder, volatility, and turmoil. What Taleb calls "antifragile” is that category of things that not only gain from chaos but need it in order to survive and flourish. In Antifragile, Taleb proposes that systems be built, not just to be robust (not harmed by volatility to remain the same) , but to be Antifragile (benefit from volatility to become better and better). Furthermore, he shows that the Antifragile is immune to prediction errors and protected from adverse events. The concept spans innovation by trial and error, start-ups, life decisions, politics, personal finance, economic systems, and medicine.

According to Dr. Taleb, the greatest sin is to be a "fragilista," somebody whose actions causes an institution to become fragile. This word is defined in the book's glossary: "somebody who causes fragility because he thinks he understands what's going on. In medicine they have a term for this - iatrogenics - meaning when doctors do more harm than good, for example, by bleeding the patient in the past, or by putting ice on swellings today. This is the similar to managers whose actions to improve local efficiencies and/or achieve short term targets actually cause harm as it compromise overall organization effectiveness and efficiency.

After this presentation, you will no longer think primarily about efficiency and effectiveness; instead you will focus on the fragility of your organisations, and how we can design and manage them to build in the ability for them to get stronger over time, as they are subject to stress. Anti-fragility is a major paradigm shift, and as such hard to accomplish, but necessary as the pursuit of efficiency itself often causes fragility.

The failure of our organisations has a high human cost, in terms of wasting money, resources, and human ability, motivation and optimism. The Darwinists argue that such failures are necessary to allow natural selection to identify the strong, the successful business models that will grow and prosper.

Start-ups are notoriously fragile with a very high failure rate. But the few that survive and grow can turn into something that can be even more dangerous – robust organizations. The problem with robust organizations is that they resist change. Products or Processes (or People) that do more harm than good aren’t quickly changed - so these organizations die slowly, especially when they have a monopoly or have large reserves. Antifragile organizations are those that have a culture that enables them to learn fast from their environment and adapt to it so they can take advantage of volatility.

We know that the application of the mindsets and methods within Theory of Constraints can help remove constraints to help people and organizations improve and become more robust (not harmed by volatility to stay the same). But can it help people and organizations become Antifragile (benefit by volatility to become better and better) and if so, how?

Is it really possible to make people and organizations, not just more robust but Antifragile?

In the first part of this presentation, Dr. Barnard will use Taleb’s new definition of fragility to show why most people and organizations, even the successful ones, are more fragile than they seem. They have mechanisms that limit gain during upturns without limiting the pain during downturns. Unlike risk, fragility is actually measurable. If we can measure it, we can find a way to improve it. In the second part of his presentation, Dr. Barnard will show, through case studies, how we can measure the fragility of our organizations, our economies and even ourselves and those we care about and what we can do to improve our fragility, to achieve the ambitious target of not just becoming more robust, but Antifragile. It’s time to realize "That whichdoes not kill us, can make us weaker or stronger. It important to understand what will make the difference…

DR. ALAN BARNARD (PhD) is one of the leading experts in the world in the field of Theory of Constraints (TOC) and frequently worked with Dr. Eli Goldratt, creator of Theory of Constraints on large and complex projects around the world. Alan is the CEO of Goldratt Research Labs (USA), Chairman of African Phosphate (RSA) and The Odyssey Institute (USA).

Alan’s goal in life is to use his 20+ years TOC research, consulting and implementation knowledge & experience to help both organizations from the private and public sector as well as individuals see and unlock their inherent potential.

In 2009, Alan was awarded a PhD in the Management of Technology & Innovation from the Da Vinci Institute with a thesis titled "How to identify and unlock inherent potential within organizations and individuals using a Systems Approach”.

Alan is certified by the "Theory of Constraints International Certification Organization” (TOCICO) at the "implementer” level in all Theory of Constraints (TOC) applications (Operations, Finance, Projects, Supply Chain, Thinking Processes and Holistic Business Strategy). Alan received the Life-time Achievement award from TOCICO in 2006 for his life-time contribution to TOC and TOCICO.

Alan is also author of various published TOC related papers & articles and contributed two chapters to the 2010 McGraw Hill published "Theory of Constraints Handbook” and was a contributing author of for Gerald Kendall’s book "Viable Vision: Transforming Total Sales into Net Profits” (Ross Publishing, 2004).

Alan is a former president of SAPICS (2000 to 2002) and former president of TOCICO (2003 to 2005) and received the TOCICO Lifetime Achievement award in 2006. He has worked at a strategy level with companies such as ABB, BHP Billiton, African Explosives, Cisco, SAP, Random House Publishing, Tata Steel, RAK Ceramics, and Larsen & Toubro in the Private sector and in the Public sector with the UN DP, the UN WFP, Utah State Government and City Councils in Developing countries to help them identify and unlock inherent potential through the application of Theory of Constraints.

Alan is also the developer of the HARMONY Strategy & Tactic Desktop, Web App and iPhone App software suite that was nominated for the Silicon Valley Business App Awards in 2013.

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