Conditions Of Failure: Building Antifragile Systems And Organizations

Velocity Culture, Sutton North
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We’ve all heard—and possibly embraced—the “fail fast” mantra, but not all failures are created equal. For instance, when building a skyscraper, a tiny miscalculation can have disastrous results. On the other hand, the path to outsize success with “antifragile” systems (and teams) is often via quick iterations through a large number of small failures.

In this talk, I’ll cover:

  • Distinctions between fragile and antifragile systems, and when is it appropriate and beneficial to “fail fast”?
  • The critical role of failure in building and improving antifragile systems.
  • The single root cause of all failures (there is such a thing!), and reasons that understanding conditions (and the root cause) of failure is critical to learning from failures, and improving system resilience.
  • The role and challenges of adopting the patterns of Devops (Culture, Automation, Measurement, Sharing) in building antifragile systems (and organizations).
  • The role of generalists in improving organizational (and system) antifragility.
Photo of Dave Zwieback

Dave Zwieback

Next Big Sound

Dave Zwieback has been working with large-scale mission-critical infrastructure and teams for almost two decades. Dave is the VP of engineering at Next Big Sound (acquired by Pandora Media, Inc.) and CTO of Lotus Outreach. He has previously worked with the adaptive learning startup Knewton, the quantitative investment management firm D.E. Shaw & Co., and the financial services behemoth Morgan Stanley. He also ran an infrastructure architecture consultancy for seven years. Dave is the author of Beyond Blame: Learning from Failure and Success from O’Reilly Media. He blogs at


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