The point of diligence is resilience


Do you like your job, with its title and perks?

No doubt you do. Most people we meet have complaints about this or that in their work, but are willing to accept those as the nits that you put up with to have the rank, the title, the perks and the salary.

Which is why, when they think about their career, they think about it in terms of leveraging the current title into the next one — and why, when a sudden shock happens (the business closes, you’re acquired, or another round of terminations rolls through), they rush to get back on the career ladder at least where they were before.

Not very secure, is it, having all your eggs in one basket?

That’s why we suggest that personal due diligence should be a feature of your life, not just something you do because a job change has hit your horizon.

The point of doing diligence is to increase your resilience. It’s hard to make your career anti-fragile (to use the term from Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s new book, Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder, the successor to his famous The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable), because when you have one job, with one title, it’s inherently fragile (easy to disrupt).

Resilience is a form closely coupled to anti-fragility. It allows for parts to fall apart without causing too much difficulty (true anti-fragility would have no impact on the whole if parts failed).

We can all be more resilient.

We do this by:

Increasing our social capital: We make sure we’re well connected, and useful to others, before we need to be. We are a trusted contributor to our networks, and have trust relationships with others that bring us ideas to help us both today and tomorrow.

Add to our diversity: We try not to have all our eggs in one basket, by participating in other organizations (industry groups, sit on boards, local not-for-profits, etc.) and by adding to our skills.

Make our careers more modular: Good social capital and diversity gains increase our career modularity, even though we may not want a “portfolio” lifestyle where we are involved in multiple ventures and build a résumé of projects rather than progressions up the ladder. The more diversity and network connections, the more access to work (even if jobs are hard to come by).

Being open to innovation: Taking ideas from one domain to another is a part of learning by experimentation. These should be safe-to-fail efforts: not all that you do is a success! (I’ve blended history, philosophy, economics and political science with information technology for years.)

Increase redundancy and tight feedback loops: These last two are the hardest to implement within a single person and career, but are important principles of building resiliency. You can increase redundancy by doing work that doesn’t require you to be somewhere in particular (thereby allowing a spouse to take a career move without disrupting your earning power). You need to open to your networks — or have a feedback mechanism, be it a coach, advisor or separate social network — to gain constant feedback on how well you are building and maintaining your resilience.

Compare this to the typical expectation placed on education today, that it should be “job focused” and that graduates should be “job ready”: the principles of resilience are almost the exact opposite of what we’re expecting schools of all types to do!

Compare it as well to the typical workplace, where authority is limited, where budgets do not set aside contingency or opportunity funds, where job descriptions are over-specified and it’s clear that we work to breed resilience out of the workplace, too.

That’s why taking personal action to not only undertake the diligence required to see the future, but to increase your own resilience, is critical. You’re in a very fragile (non-resilient) world.

The advisors at Personal Due Diligence are here to help. Your move.

Your society is not acquiring resilience on its own.

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