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Antifragile & Agile 14/4/2014 1

Agile and Antifragile

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quick introduction to antifragile for the agile mind. Relating to cognitive bias, design thinking and lean startup

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Page 1: Agile and Antifragile

Antifragile & Agile

14/4/2014 1

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Introductory video

• It's about how hard you can get hit and keep

moving forward. How much you can take and

keep moving forward

• http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6w4Xtsf


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Luc Taesch @luctaesch

• Autodidacte in IT, First commercial software when 16. Later math SUP, then IT and

25 Years PM, Architect, and BA. Mainly in market finance, since 87. Freelancing

around Europe since 95.

• Personal curiosity in psychology, zen, meditation, martial arts. Animated or Co

founded a few short therapy / personal development groups. Try and bridge this

into professional life for the last 20 years.

• Discover agile in 99, see it works, wonder why…

• Best recent explanations based on Kanheman cognitive bias, and Taleb anti-

fragility .

• Practice what you preach : Barefoot running, Paleo Eating, Freelancing for 20Y.

(see Doxastic commitment , or “soul in the game”)

• AntiFragile provided me words and concepts for what I was intuitively doing all my

life (slightly against the tide)…

• And also I can now conceptualize why the system dysfunctions, which I already

noticed a while ago… (see Narrative Fallacy ? ☺ )

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(My perception on )

Agile, Antifragile and Cognitive bias



Cognitive BiasCognitive Bias

Design ThinkingDesign Thinking Lean StartupLean Startup

Product Design

Project execution

Go To Market

Providesconcepts (Theory) for system design

Provides a ground . Cognitive Theoryon human behavior

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Nicholas Nassim Taleb

@nntaleb• Is a former option trader, who became « financially independant » in 87, and

richer in 2007. He specialized in rare events (« black swan »)

• Has a independent mindset, and quite a character. Large Culture, 6 Langages.

• Has written four philosophical books on uncertainty and how the current

prevailing mindset is tainting our view on life. (and more technical Math papers).

• He influenced Kahneman (Behavioral Psychologist, Economy Nobel 2002, worked

on cognitive biases ),

– who suggested him to sneak into academy (instead of fighting from outside)

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This is Fragile

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This is Robust

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Up to a certain Point

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This is Anti fragile

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Antifragility can be applied to lots

of domains• Personal Life

• Health, medecine

• Economics

• Corporate

• Technology

• Politics

• Being given 20 mn and an IT audience, We will try and play

and discover how it relates to project management , linear

and agile

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Anti fragile :Benefit from random , gain from disorder ( up to a certain point)

Fragile :Fear random and disorder

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Your body is convex hence

antifragile• Jump 1x from 10 m , harms you badly (!)

• Jump 5x from 2 m, and you may develop

• Jump 1000 x from 1 cm, is possibly tiring at max.

• Your body has a convex response to harm ( jumping)

• If your body had a linear one, you would be dead walking to

the office.

– If you have not smiled to the last one, re-read until you do

☺. I did not clicked the first time…

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I would be dead walking to the office if

the body had a linear response to

harm (exercise)

Small Jumps




High Jumps

Too High Jumps

Cumulative Harm, if Linear

Convex Assumption

Linear Assumption

I can exercise long in that zone and no harm

I can exercise in thatzone and benefit

Every steps wouldharm me a bit more

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• Fragilista

– Hate disorder

– Seek stability by trying to stabilise the


• Anti Fragilista

– Seek stability by embracing challenge

– Embraces randomness

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Team size

• Up to a certain point , bigger team means

more productivity, then it falters…

– (typically : 7+/-2 for a team, 100-150 for a tribe)

– A : More is more

– B :Less is more

– See hormesisA B

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Volatility in IT

• In a project :( perceived) scope, requirements, costs,

"resources", people changes , (perception of) complexity,

estimation, dependencies

• Outside the project: other projects, resource competition,

strategy, IT landscape, business changes, reorganisation,

manager changes, politics

• Outside the company: technology, market , market

conditions, M&A

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Planning ( fallacies)

• You missed the exit on the highway

• would you be happy driving 100 km until the

next one ?

• You want … Optionality….

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Serial optionality (the cliquet

property).• A rigid business plan gets one locked into a preset invariant

policy, like a highway without exits —hence devoid of optionality. One needs the ability to change opportunisticallyand "reset" the option for a new option, by ratcheting up, and getting locked up in a higher state. To translate into practicalterms, plans need to 1) stay flexible with frequent ways out, and, counter to intuition 2) be very short term, in order to properly capture the long term. Mathematically, five sequential one-year options are vastly more valuable than a single five-year option.

• This explains why matters such as strategic planning have never born fruit in empirical reality: planning has a side effectto restrict optionality. It also explains why top-down centralized decisions tend to fail.

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Short Iterations

• Antifragile tinkering, bricolage

• Trial and errors, errors bringing the « right »

kind of mistakes» See : Rational flaneur ( vs Tourist)

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The waterfall « cycle »

• How is this going to react to

change ?

See: the Ludic fallacies

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The nonteleological property

• 5) Theory is born from (convex) practice more often than the reverse (). Textbooks tend to show technology flowing fromscience, when it is more often the opposite case, dubbed the "lecturing birds on how to fly" effect. In such developments as the industrial revolution (and more generally outside lineardomains such as physics), there is very little historicalevidence for the contribution of fundamental researchcompared to that of tinkering by hobbyists. Figure 2 shows, more technically how in a random process characterized by "skills" and "luck", and some opacity, antifragility —the convexity bias— can be shown to severely outperform"skills". And convexity is missed in histories of technologies, replaced with ex post narratives

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• What did we do well, that if we don’t discuss we

might forget?

• What did we learn?

• What should we do differently next time?

• What still puzzles us?

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The via negativa property

• 7) Better cataloguing of negative results (the via negativa property). Optionality

works by negative information, reducing the space of what we do by knowledge of

what does not work. For that we need to pay for negative results.

Some of the critics of these ideas —over the past two decades— have been

countering that this proposal resembles buying "lottery tickets". Lottery tickets are

patently overpriced, reflecting the "long shot bias" by which agents, according to

economists, overpay for long odds. This comparison, it turns out is fallacious, as

the effect of the long shot bias is limited to artificial setups: lotteries are sterilized

randomness, constructed and sold by humans, and have a known upper bound.

This author calls such a problem the "ludic fallacy". Research has explosive

payoffs, with unknown upper bound —a "free option", literally. And we have

evidence (from the performance of banks) that in the real world, betting against

long shots does not pay, which makes research a form of reverse-banking.

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– Threat or opportunity

– Loss Aversion

– Pomodoro

– See: Hormesis

• A bit of stressor, in the right doses, stimulates the

organism and makes it better, stronger, healthier

• Bones and Karate

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V cycle: forgetting we are human

• See naïve rationalism,

• or Soviet-Harvard delusion

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(Short) Feedback loop

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Skin in the game

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Estimation : planning poker

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Relative Estimation

• Wysati : What you see is all there is.

• over optimisme

• Exaggerated Confidence

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Group think

• http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abilene_paradox

• Madness is rare in individuals - but in groups, parties,

nations, and ages it is the rule.

– (Niezsche quoted by Paul Watzlawick )

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V :"simplifying" reality does not

change it

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Information radiators

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Daily stand up meetings

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Planning with hands

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Task boards

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Peer programming

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Explicit Help Request

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• A decent (but linear) summary:




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References (technical)

• http://edge.org/conversation/understanding-


• http://edge.org/conversation/the-fourth-


• Taleb Douady : Mathematical Definition

Mapping, and Detection of (Anti)Fragility

– http://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1208/1208.1189


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Going further

• This is a vast and complex topic, so we created a

« study group » to share what we know, (and what

we don't ☺), and look for applications in personal

and business life.

• http://www.meetup.com/Paris-Antifragile-Meetup/

• Feel free to contact me if you would like to apply this

to impact your business environment .

[email protected] @luctaesch www.taesch.com