Resilience, anti-fragile, navy seals, master chefs, stoics and books to read

I had the pleasure of speaking at the ACEI conference about resilience. This is what I talked about:


  • The definition of resilience is “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties” or “the ability to persevere; to attempt to overcome setbacks or obstacles” In everyday-speak, it is often referred to as ‘bounce-back-ability or “toughness”.
  • It is used in a business context, but also in the context of personal development, community development or indeed climate change.
  • The book that immediately springs to mind is “Antifragile” by Taleb. The ability to recover from shocks as a business or as an individual. Suggesting that you should inject small shocks to become more resilient.
  • Other words used are adaptability and flexibility, The ability to adjust to changing circumstances. To do that you need to be aware of what those changing circumstances are.
  • Let me take you on a journey of a number of books and concepts that should help you do that. I will frame that in what in my view are four key trends, namely exponential, climate change, circular and social innovation.

I will finish with a tool we developed to help you filter and make sense of all the changes that are coming our way.



  • “The second machine age” is a classic. It was one of the first books covering exponential, technology and the impact on jobs, society and business. It is not only AI and robotics, but also genetics, biology, material science, data, ICT, quantum physics, energy and health, but also about the combination of those. Like interchange lego blocks. Speeding up the developments even more.
  • “Makers” is about 3D and 4D printing, which will not only change distribution as we know it but also the whole process of making, manufacturing and building.
  • “The day after tomorrow” is written by Peter Hinssen. Internal clock speed and the 70/20/10 rule. Every CEO should spend 70% thinking about today, 20% about tomorrow and 10% on the day after tomorrow. I could argue that 70% of your thinking should be spent on the day after tomorrow.
  • “Frugal innovation” is a great book about innovation and biology and nature as a source of ideas and design solutions. Biomimicry is a hotspot.
  • “Black box thinking” is about the importance of iteration and accepting failure. The question to ask is what the failure budget is in your organisation. How much money are you allowed to lose?

Climate change

  • Climate change is the biggest threat and opportunity of the 21st century. Fundamentally transforming business models. If we go over 2 degrees the effects are horrendous. A combination of Mad Max and Waterworld.
  • COP21 is the first indication that governments are starting to this serious. Which means that legislation and regulation will follow. Consider how in the future natural capital will be taken into consideration when you calculate your cost price. That will go way beyond carbon loading.
  • It is not all doom and gloom. It is a 90 Trillion opportunity. 40 Billion in Ireland alone.
  • The book to read is “Drawdown”, which has 90 ready-made solutions already available.


“No ordinary disruption” talks about how we are running out of materials. Copper, zinc, but also water and sand. Which means prices of supplies will go up. The only way to truly secure supplies in the future is to go fully circular.

Social innovation

  • “Thank you for being late” is a very scary book. A very grim perspective on globalisation, climate change and society. We are now at the stage where one person can destroy the whole planet. Social innovation and inclusion will become crucial to avoid that from happening. Community development will become a necessity.
  • Thankfully new business models are starting to emerge. Books like “Firms of endearment” and “Evolved enterprise” are triple bottom line lead businesses. They are also 14:1 more profitable and more resilient.
  • The book to read is “exponential organisations”. To scale successfully you need one thing above anything else. A Big Transformative Purpose.

It is difficult to make sense. Here are a few books you should read to help you cope.

Organisational design

“Reinventing organisation” suggest completely new forms of organisation. Helping you to improve your internal clock speed and ensuring that your staff is engaged.

Navy Seals

“The Navy Seals art of war” is about attitude. Navy Seals never give up. But they also use the best equipment, focus on preparation, preparation, clear communication and exercise “extreme ownership”. The buck always stops with you. Their training also proves that people are capable much more than they think.


“Working clean” is about master chefs and their professionalism and the way they organise their work. With full commitment, full precision and consistency. Combined with creativity and customer experience. If your business was a kitchen or restaurant?


“Reality is broken” is about gaming and scenario planning and using gaming techniques to get your staff and yourself in creating possible futures. Combine that book with “Future vision”.

The mind

“Solve for happy” is about mindset and how to apply mind techniques. You need to manage your brain, starting with knowing that it can only hold one thought at the time. A thought you can control. I advise everyone that wants to become more resilient to meditate. “The code of the extraordinary mind” is my handbook.


“Robot proof” suggests that everyone should study arts. It is not alone in that. “Runaway species” suggest that we are wired for innovation and that arts is the main way to express that. It also suggests that you get science fiction writers to help you develop your scenarios for the future.


“Deep work” suggests that you should relearn how to focus. Getting rid of distractions. You should also read “The end of absence”


“The obstacle is the way” is a perspective on stoicism and another perspective on attitude. Life sucks. Get over it.


Finally, there is “Coherence”. The physiology of decision making as a leader. If you are calm, your organisation is calm. You are the metronome of your organisation. Your heartbeat is the heartbeat of the organisation. Slow it down. Breathe.


Or you can apply a lens to everything you do. Hence the strategic box. The filter or framework through which you look at the world. Just make sure you avoid the “Filter Bubble”.


Ultimately all of that needs to be translated into a story. One for you internally, one for the organisation and your staff, carrying the cultural memes that will drive behaviour and direction and one for your clients and stakeholders. Preferably the story is the same in all three.

Free books

Summaries of all these books can be found at You can download “The future, slow down or go faster?” for free using ACEI2018 here His book on climate change is available for free.

sensemaking cover


Sense making; morality, humanity, leadership and slow flow. A book about the 14 books about the impact and implications of technology on business and humanity.

Ron Immink

I help companies by developing an inspiring and clear future perspective, which creates better business models, higher productivity, more profit and a higher valuation. Best-selling author, speaker, writer.

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