Saturday, January 26, 2013

Are you Antifragile?

During my free time before we head out on the road to play Wheaton today, I've been reading the book Antifragile, by Nassim Taleb.  Taleb also wrote The Black Swan and Fooled by Randomness which, like Antifragile, are heavy on philosophy but really make you think about the way we view our modern world.

No, I wouldn't suggest you go right out and buy his books unless you are willing to do some heavy slogging through Teleb's dense prose.  But the reason I bring up this book is that his concept of "antifragility" is one you'll find fascinating, and which can best be summarized with the following quote:

When you are fragile, you depend on things following the exact planned course, with as little deviation as possible--for (you incorrectly assume) deviations are more harmful than helpful... (But) if every trial provides you with information about what does not work, you start zooming in on a solution--so every attempt becomes more valuable, more like an expense than an error.  And of course you make discoveries along the way. (p. 71)

The application to System basketball is obvious. His concept of "antifragility" is that chaos, randomness, volatility actually are good things because they lead to the improvement.  Playing it safe, on the other hand, may seem smarter but in the long run makes something (your team?) more fragile, more prone to breaking.

It's no secret that you might lose by bigger than normal margins using the System.  But you can win by bigger margins, too.  That's volatility, and volatility (according to Taleb) is good, not bad... as long as you keep your job.  We lost a game by 50 during my first System year.  Bad?  No, good.  From that loss, I learned how not to lose by 50 again, and by the end of that season we won some games by the same margin... something we'd have never accomplished had we not learned and grown via the System cauldron.

That's why System teams are a lot better at the end of the season than at the beginning, better than they would have been had they played it safe... again assuming the thing doesn't blow up in your face. 

But if you can make it to February, you'll be Antifragile.

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