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The Light and Fast Organisation

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The Light and Fast Organisation

A New Way of Dealing with Uncertainty


15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

To deal with the VUCA world, apply the “alpine style” to your organization.

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Applicable


Consultant and mountaineer Patrick Hollingworth’s compact book will win your attention. He explores “alpine style” mountaineering and relates its important lessons to managing your organization. Hollingworth shows how mountain climbers can inspire you when you have to deal with “black swans” and “volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity” (VUCA) situations. He encourages you to embrace complexity and ambiguity as a way to develop your leadership abilities. getAbstract recommends Hollingworth’s mountain-meets-business manifesto to current and aspiring leaders who dare to challenge the status quo so they can thrive in the 21st century.



Nordwand – German for “north face” – is a two-kilometer vertical rock and ice stretch of Switzerland’s Eiger Mountain, which is famous for its inaccessibility and for the high death toll among those who attempt to climb it. At least 64 people have died on the Nordwand. In 1938, a group of four young men from Austria and Germany became the first climbers to reach the summit. It took them 96 hours. They came close to death – but prevailed.

In 2008, Swiss alpinist Ueli Steck embarked on a solo climb of the Nordwand. Dressed warmly but lightly and equipped with only the most essential technical equipment – a rope and a pair of ice axes – Steck applied a new technique: Climb “light and fast” and adapt quickly to the mountain’s challenges. He ascended the Eiger in less than three hours by applying the strategy of “extreme alpinism.” The Nordwand stands as a metaphor of today’s business world, which is beset with avalanches, falling rocks and nasty storms. Steck’s alpinist approach can transform businesses and how they deal with “volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity” (VUCA).

“The VUCA World”

Many people use the term “VUCA” to...

About the Author

An experienced mountaineer who climbed Everest and other 8,000-meter peaks using the alpine-style approach, Patrick Hollingworth is a long-time business consultant who helps individuals, teams and companies deal with the VUCA world.

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    C. M. 4 years ago
    If you find useful to think about organization using metaphors, I would rather suggest the old but good (and in my opinion more comprehensive) book "Images of Organisation".

    Contingency Theory, TQM and quality circles, lean organisation, organizational ecology, human relations, self-organisation, organisational life-cycle, Structure in Fives, freedom and responsibility-based organizational forms, ...
    all these theories (and underlying research) seem to me to already handle the ingredients of flexible, human, light and fast organizations since quite a while ... without necessarily climbing mountains :-) .

    Still, I will try to look at the free webinar to see if there is really something fresh & new, that I might not have been able to spot just reading the abstract.
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    J. D. 4 years ago
    This is well worth a read. The climbing analogy won’t work for everyone but makes the concepts (mindfulness and flexibility in VUCA environments) at least somewhat accessible to the lay person. Traditional ‘rigid’ plans are increasingly fragile in a world of rapid technological and social change and Patrick goes some way in explaining this phenomenon. The concepts presented here are current in academia & this book is an accessible route to understanding without having to wade through multiple academic journals.
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    K. B. 5 years ago
    I'd like to hear more about "expedition-style organization wearing alpinists’ clothing". Anyone?

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