Becoming “Anti-Fragile”


By: Nate Stickney

The energy on campus, once again, is palpable. Having the returning students back from summers full of learning and hard work is exciting, and the new students’ enthusiasm is invigorating. The academic year is underway, and I hear rumblings of exams this coming week.

We come to campus this autumn at a time of exciting and unprecedented change. Incoming students are beginning the innovative and immersive new curriculum. They will acquire skills quicker, and be more competitive for company visits to campus, career fairs, and interviews.

In addition, Thunderbird is on the precipice of a new strategic alliance poised to offer future students incredible global opportunities. This year, programs will be offered in South America and Europe, with more expected in the future.

Undoubtedly, dear reader, you have seen various articles and musings on the subject of this alliance. They can be discouraging, disheartening, and sometimes angering. I hope to present the turbulence in a different light.

In his new book “Anti-Fragile”, Nassim Nicholas Talib posits that there is no word to describe the opposite of fragile–something that gets stronger with chaos and volatility. Hence, the term “anti-fragile”. In his argument, he highlights the importance of consistent turbulence, and that variation over time is more helpful than a lack of variation over time, because it prevents catastrophic shocks to the system.

Thunderbird’s past is rifled with bumps, dodges, bobs, and weaves. The school has constantly brought various changes upon itself in order to prevent catastrophic shock. This instance is no different. Talib argues that consistently responding to this volatility leads to strength and robustness, and is in fact, a natural reaction. Evolution and “survival of the fittest” is the quintessential example of his idea.

A takeaway for our students is the importance to seek and inspire change rather than be complacent and stagnant. We learn about the importance of disruption and innovation in our strategic management classes, and see it constantly in the lives of the companies we follow. Respond, change, adapt–personally and professionally. Make yourself “anti-fragile”.

This point is important in the context of the conversation about the strategic alliance. As I have spoken with many of you over the past months, I have shared a consistent idea: You are as good as you are. Thunderbird is a powerful institution, no doubt, and is a part of your adaptation and “anti-fragility”. However, you exist beyond simply this school, and while Thunderbird accelerates and enhances your future success, your success is more directly a result of what you learn in your classes from our excellent faculty, and how you apply it to succeed at your job.

To conclude: do not simply embrace change, seek it out, in order to be the best you can. Your success over time ultimately defines the school’s success, independent of any partnerships, programs or alliances.

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