Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure
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In this groundbreaking book, Tim Harford, the Undercover Economist, shows us a new and inspiring approach to solving the most pressing problems in our lives. When faced with complex situations, we have all become accustomed to looking to our leaders to set out a plan of action and blaze a path to success. Harford argues that today's challenges simply cannot be tackled with ready-made solutions and expert opinion; the world has become far too unpredictable and profoundly complex. Instead, we must adapt.
Deftly weaving together psychology, evolutionary biology, anthropology, physics, and economics, along with the compelling story of hard-won lessons learned in the field, Harford makes a passionate case for the importance of adaptive trial and error in tackling issues such as climate change, poverty, and financial crises―as well as in fostering innovation and creativity in our business and personal lives.
Taking us from corporate boardrooms to the deserts of Iraq, Adapt clearly explains the necessary ingredients for turning failure into success. It is a breakthrough handbook for surviving―and prospering― in our complex and ever-shifting world.
a group of insurgents in Iraq would. The toaster is merely an improved way to solve an old problem – the Romans loved toast – unlike the World Wide Web or the personal computer, which provide solutions to problems we never realised we had. The toasting problem is laughably simple compared to the problem of transforming a poor country such as Bangladesh into the kind of economy where toasters are manufactured with ease and every household can afford one, along with the bread to put into it. It is
tempting to think that the US Army would have had no problems if only men like H.R. McMaster, Sean MacFarland, and David Petraeus had been in charge from the beginning. That conclusion misses the real lesson that McMaster was trying to teach the US Army. Long before Tal Afar, he had been arguing that the celebrated technology behind Effects-Based Operations was simply not as effective as military doctrine of the day assumed. Not only was the picture always incomplete, as the Battle of 73 Easting
markets. The advantage of decentralisation, rapid adaptation to local circumstances, has grown. Meanwhile, information technology has improved at a famously staggering pace. Kantorovich, Allende, McNamara and Rumsfeld all seemed to operate on the assumption that better computers and better communication links would help the process of centralisation, gathering everything into one place where a planner could make the key decisions. The exact opposite is true: the evidence suggests that more
organisation with a failing strategy in a fast-moving world. Experimentation mattered. But there is a limit to how much experimentation – how much variation, to use the Darwinian term – is possible for a single organisation, or desirable on the battlefield. Sometimes, far more experimentation and far more variation are required – more than any one organisation, no matter how flexible, can provide. In such cases a far more radical approach to promoting new ideas is called for. It is to this
with their feet. This final idea is, sadly, something which has been entirely missing from most development initiatives for the past sixty years. But harnessing the power of ordinary people as a selection mechanism isn’t limited to the idea of charter cities. It could also be an answer to one of the greatest global challenges of all: the challenge of climate change. *Van Helmont’s trial is not even the earliest recorded. Ben Goldacre points out that there is a clinical trial described in the