True Opposites

It was never billed this way, but Antifragile is one of the best startup books of all time.

There are many powerful concepts but the one I keep using almost daily is what I call true opposites.

In the book Taleb asks: What is the exact opposite of “fragile”?

Almost all people answer that the opposite of “fragile” is “robust,” “resilient,” “solid,” or something of the sort. But the resilient, robust (and company) are items that neither break nor improve, so you would not need to write anything on them— have you ever seen a package with “robust” in thick green letters stamped on it? Logically, the exact opposite of a “fragile” parcel would be a package on which one has written “please mishandle” or “please handle carelessly.” Its contents would not just be unbreakable, but would benefit from shocks and a wide array of trauma.

Robust negates the effects of fragility, but antifragile is its true inverse. Robust, it turns out, is only a half opposite. Antifragile is the true opposite.

Here’s another example:

The opposite of organized isn’t disorganized, but anti-organized. Something that even when you try to work with it, actively creates more disorganization. In a company this would be one that not only couldn’t function, approve or act, but one that with each activity becomes more chaotic and disaster prone. Something even less effective than randomness.

A company I was working with was considering changing their model from closed listings to to open listings - because open is the opposite of closed. But open is only half-opposite.

The true opposite of closed curation is complete aggregation. Not just opening the door but pushing everyone in.

Next time you have a problem or an opportunity think of the opposite. Then think of the true opposite. You’ll find a lot of great secrets there.


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