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January 29, 2021

3 Proven Ways to Form an Antifragile Team in a Time of Disruption

Antifragile Team Formation in a Time of COVID-19

The very thing that you can’t predict happening in a conflict scenario has a high likelihood of actually happening in a conflict scenario.


The other party buckles; or doesn’t. The other party makes concessions, or doesn’t, or makes so few as to be insulting. The other party bargains in good faith; or doesn’t.

When working within the reality of teams and people, an antifragile posture toward the other party, the circumstances you and your team find yourselves in, or the reality you’re facing can help leaders navigate change effectively.

Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors and love adventure , risk, and uncertainty. Yet, in spite of the ubiquity of the phenomenon, there is no word for the exact opposite of fragile. Let us call it antifragile. Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better.

Antifragility is more than just a fancy, updated way of addressing the volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity that change brings. It is the only way to form a team that can negotiate with reality and circumstances as they shift and change—that volatility and uncertainty—and not completely collapse. [From:  Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder]

As we observed many teams, systems, and processes do in the presence of the Black Swan, COVID-19.

Antifragile Mindsets Mean Letting Go of the Past

The most difficult part of successfully addressing the very event that arises that your team, your planning, and your wargaming should have predicted, but didn’t is that, for all of humanity’s collective creative thinking, individual human beings tend towards responding in conventional ways to external—and internal--changes.


These conventional wisdom responses include fear, avoidance, aggression, accommodation, and appeal to a higher authority (appeal to the protection of the dominance hierarchy).

All of these ways of approaching change involve resistance to change which comes from a deep well of fear, and a deep need for security, sure answers, and peace.

Mindset change is the most difficult part of the planning and implementing of an antifragile approach to external and internal volatility for individuals, and when teams attempt to take that mindset change and scale it to a team or organization, it typically fails miserably.

Or, even worse, meetings are held, memos are drafted, and reports are filed, and then a sigh of relief is expelled (sometimes metaphorically, sometimes literally) at the idea that a “contingency” plan has been established and the team, the organization, and the processes go back to being what they were.

This is the reason that the lessons from stress tests usually fail to be applied.

The reason planners of contingencies, callers of meetings, and organizers of stress tests fail to accomplish their goals is because they miss three important factors that teams must address in order to transform from behaving with delusional robustness to behaving with confident antifragility.

3 Antifragile Lessons to Build a Team

Team leaders need to be aware of three ways that are proven to form and antifragile tam in a time of massive disruption, coming from everywhere all at once, with increased speed.


Leaders must be empathetic and aware of the three phases of transition an individual, a team, and an organization experience. The three phases include coming to terms with the end of past events, coming to the middle-of-the-road, and accepting new beginnings.

Leaders must understand that resistance to change is pernicious, powerful, deceptive, and sneaky. If resistance is more powerful than dissatisfaction, the vision of the future, and planful first steps, then antifragility won’t take root.

Leaders must immediately search out and implement actions that focus around, not building resilience—that will come later—but instead focus on understanding a team’s unique “zero.” Knowing that every individual, team, and organization has a way to innovate that starts with their own, unique mindsets, attitudes, and approaches to the volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity that change brings.

In order to develop an antifragile team, leaders must be aware of these three proven ways to develop and build a team that thrives in times of uncertainty.

Article written by Jesan Sorrells
Jesan Sorrells serves as the CEO of HSCT Publishing, the home of leadership development platforms, Leadership ToolBox, LeaderBuzz, and LeadingKeys..Backed by over 7 years of direct, in-person training experience with over 15,000+ managers and supervisors across multiple industry verticals, LeadingKeys, Leadership Toolbox, and LeaderBuzz deliver leadership and talent solutions to managers and supervisors of SMB's.
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