David Grove was a master of seizing the moment, turning a slip into an opportunity, the mundane into the sacred, the bizarre into the extraordinary, the idiosyncratic into the optimal. How? By being antifragile. It didn't matter what the client said or did David made use of it in their best interest. He loved ambiguity, mis-hearings, puns, non sequiturs and synchronicity. David facilitated from 'the edge of chaos’ – that thin strip of existence between order and randomness where life and creativity thrive.
After David Grove died in 2008, the person who has most influenced Penny Tompkins and my thinking is Nassim Nicholas Taleb. His first book, Fooled By Randomness exposed the challenge we have understanding the effects of chance. He followed this with The Black Swan, which showed why large-scale but rare and unpredictable events have a much greater effect than all the small, common and predictable events put together. Taleb's most recent book, Antifragile, goes further. It explores how it is possible to be more than resilient, to make non-predictive decisions under uncertainty, and to relate to the unknown without attempting to understand or control it.
Learning by avoiding mistakes is fragile. Learning by trial and error is robust. Learning by trial and feedback is antifragile.
But what does this have to Symbolic Modelling and other clean approaches? Just about everything.
As facilitators we have to make many quick decisions. Decisions based on top-down theoretical methodologies are fragile. Decisions that use experience-based heuristics are robust. And there is an antifragile class of bottom-up decision making that relies on serendipity, mistakes, the unexpected, and stochastic tinkering. My metaphor for this is it's like surfing blind.
And Taleb's ideas are not just useful to facilitators. I think you will see they have much to say about everyday life as well.
If you would like some reading from the man himself, Taleb has kindly made the prologue of his new book available as a free download: