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The Anti-Fragile Supply Chain


Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder is a 2012 book by a brilliant academic and investor Nassim Nicholas Taleb. In this book he defines ANTIFRAGILE as follows:

“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.”

If you have anything to do with supply chains in the last 5 years, you would already know that today almost every supply chain is extremely fragile. And, when it breaks down it takes the company down with it.

Occasionally, with a lot of effort, a leader manages to bring some amount of resilience into his/her company’s supply chain.

So, the key question is – what would it take to make your supply chain antifragile? Clearly, if you ever manage to do so it will of immense value to your company, its investors, management, customers and suppliers.

This report answers one single question – what would it take to make your supply chain antifragile?

The Anti-Fragile Supply Chain

We did not invent or define the term ANTIFRAGILE. That credit goes to the brilliant economist and investor Nicholas Nassim Taleb. In his book  Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder he defines it as:

Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better. This property is behind everything that has changed with time: evolution, culture, ideas, revolutions, political systems, technological innovation, cultural and economic success, corporate survival, good recipes (say, chicken soup or steak tartare with a drop of cognac), the rise of cities, cultures, legal systems, equatorial forests, bacterial resistance … even our own existence as a species on this planet. And antifragility determines the boundary between what is living and organic (or complex), say, the human body, and what is inert, say, a physical object like the stapler on your desk.

If you have not read the book so far, it is worth spending 20 minutes reviewing the key concepts in this video.

Coming back to the topic at hand – The Anti-fragile Supply Chains, it is clear that most supply chains struggle to get over their own fragility. This is not an accident. Since the last 40 years when supply chain management was invented, nobody paid any attention to the fragility of the supply chain. The common assumption was that the current trend of globalisation and low interest rates will continue unabated. These, and many other benign assumptions, are being challenged on a daily basis as we enter the age of discontinuity.

This report explores one key question – what does it take to make supply chains anti-fragile?

You may, or may not agree with the answers – but in either case, if you are one of the target audience for this report, you would be better off knowing our answer to this key question.

This report is likely to be useful for you only if you are senior enough in your organisation to affect its long-term strategic direction. This report will encourage you to think laterally and configure an alternative organisation model that could stand the traditional industrial organisation on their head to meet the challenges of the modern information age economy.

Information age supply chains are different

Even more useful is the emerging information age supply chain model that differs substantially from the industrial age supply chain model. But it is not easy to move to this new supply chain model for traditional industrial age businesses.

Why is it impossible to move to the information age supply chain model without first evolving your own organisational design? This report will answer that key question.

What are the benefits of anti-fragile supply chains?

If you succeed in making your supply chains truly anti-fragile, your company will be able to not only withstand but also thrive through the economic and political shocks that are likely to persist for the coming decade. A living supply chain that gets stronger with every piece of complexity, volatility and ambiguity that you throw at it can outlast its competitors and take its company into the next decades with an information age model custom-designed for the changing times.

When everyone is complaining about the trends

It is time to think about novel business models. The trends are here to stay, even accelerate. Supply chains are not going to get any easier to manage – quite the contrary. Volatility is not going to reduce, it will spike sporadically and unexpectedly. Demand is going to either fall through the floor or spike through the roof. Same with supply. You can either join in with the chorus of complaints or think about writing a new song-sheet.

Writing a new composition

Even traditional consultants, good as they are in linear strategies, will be unable to write the new song-sheets. That is the problem with discontinuities.  It requires decades of experience and a global vision to do so. Your team may be inspired enough to take on the task with your guidance once they know the basic notes of the new tune.

Imagine being able to meet the challenges of the discontinuities head-on. Being able to withstand the shocks of COVID, monetary run-offs, interest rate shocks, exchange rate shocks, global trade barriers, demonetisation or anything else that the next decade throws at your company.

Your traditional organisation structure, or traditional supply chain, will never be able to do all this.

Apple, Amazon, Zara – who else is doing this?

These emerging models are already in full view – the only problem is that most observers are taking the wrong cues from them. Why? because it takes decades of supply chain experience to discern subtle supply chain moves that appear insubstantial from outside, but make a significant difference in reality.

This report was written to make a difference

During the COVID era we were dismayed to see the number of companies rushing to lay-off good people to meet their budgets. The trouble with this strategy is that it is not repeatable. Even more significantly, it can backfire in the long run as you may have already noticed in many cases. That is when a senior client pointed out the book ANTIFRAGILE to us.

Antifragile corporations are useless without Anti-fragile supply chains

The concepts made perfect sense, but when it comes to practical implementation it was quickly found that any company is only as good as its supply chain. The weakest link in the supply chain decides the fortunes of everyone else in the supply chain. It does not need a long story to make this point, just a short proverb will do – For want of a nail the shoe was lost; For want of a shoe the horse was lost; For want of a horse the rider was lost; For want of a rider the message was lost; For want of a message the battle was lost; For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.

If you want more information on this report – click here


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