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Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure | [Tim Harford]

Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure

In this groundbreaking work, Tim Harford shows us a new and inspiring approach to solving the most pressing problems in our lives. Harford argues that today’s challenges simply cannot be tackled with ready-made solutions and expert opinions; 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 compelling stories of hard-won lessons learned in the field, Harford makes a passionate case for the importance of adaptive trial-and-error....
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Publisher's Summary

In this groundbreaking work, Tim Harford shows us a new and inspiring approach to solving the most pressing problems in our lives. Harford argues that today’s challenges simply cannot be tackled with ready-made solutions and expert opinions; 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 compelling stories 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 the financial crisis.

©2011 Original material © 2011 Tim Harford. Recorded by arrangement with Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved. (P)2011 Hachette Digital. Produced by Heavy Entertainment.

What the Critics Say

“Tim Harford has made a compelling and expertly informed case for why we need to embrace risk, failure, and experimentation in order to find great ideas that will change the world. I loved the book.” (Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational and The Upside of Irrationality)

“Tim Harford could well be Britain’s Malcolm Gladwell. An entertaining mix of popular economics and psychology, this excellently written book contains fascinating stories of success and failure that will challenge your assumptions. Insightful and clever.” (Alex Bellos, author of Here’s Looking at Euclid)

“This is a brilliant and fascinating book - Harford’s range of research is both impressive and inspiring, and his conclusions are provocative. The message about the need to accept failure has important implications, not just for policy making but also for people’s professional and personal lives. It should be required reading for anyone serving in government, working at a company, trying to build a career or simply trying to navigate an increasingly complex world.” (Gillian Tett, author of Fool’s Gold: The Inside Story of J.P. Morgan and How Wall St. Greed Corrupted Its Bold Dream and Created a Financial Catastrophe)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (104 )
5 star
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4.0 (73 )
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Story
3.9 (76 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Lawrence Marshall, VA, USA 05-20-13
    Lawrence Marshall, VA, USA 05-20-13 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Hidden Agenda"
    Would you try another book from Tim Harford and/or Jonathan Keeble?

    Possibly, first half of book was full of great examples and approaches but second half became too much of a political statement for Carbon tax and did not follow throught with the main theme as much as the first half.


    Would you recommend Adapt to your friends? Why or why not?

    Only as a casual read and but stop at Carbon Tax section. You got 90% of the book at that point


    How could the performance have been better?

    Narrator needs to narrate. There was absolutely no need for alternate voices or a performance. Took away from the narration too much, were not that good and as an audible book his accent was often difficult to pick up on key words requiring a slight rewind at times.


    Did Adapt inspire you to do anything?

    One key point was made in the beginning that has resonated with me. The decision you make after a bad decision (or result) is often more damaging than the original. Excellent point in everything from golf to realtionships to business.


    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joshua Kim Etna, NH, United States 06-10-12
    Joshua Kim Etna, NH, United States 06-10-12 Member Since 2005

    mostly nonfiction listener

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Will Prove Influential"

    Adapt will be an influential book. I read lots of terrific books, and Harford's latest is certainly terrific, but very few books make a long-term difference in how we think. Thaler and Sunstein's Nudge, Ariely's Predictably Irrational, Taleb's The Black Swan, and Wu's Master Switch are all influential books. They all creep into conversations, inform policy choices, underlie institutional strategies, and shape careers.

    One of my favorite quotes of all time comes from John Maynard Keynes:
    “The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.”
    (Note: when Keynes was around, the ed tech profession did not yet exist, but if it did I think we would have been included amongst "economists and political philosophers").

    Ideas rule the world. And books are the way that ideas take shape and spread. Therefore, books rule the world.

    Adapt may get you thinking about your ability to adapt. Accept that you will fail, that your institution, your company, your department and your division will fail. What matters is how we learn from failure. Harford builds his theory of adaptation and failure by telling stories.

    How did the U.S. Army turn the Iraq war around? (Short story … by Colonels on the ground risking careers by defying their civilian and military bosses, and engaging in counter-insurgent tactics). How have successful companies, from Google to Whole Foods, to W.L. Gore drive innovation and profits? (Answer: by creating non-hierarchical cultures that push authority and accountability to the edges).

    All this may seem like familiar ground, and some of it has been well covered in Schulz's marvelous Being Wrong and Watt's Everything is Obvious (among others), but Harford brings these threads together into a clear set of ideas that are actionable in our professional lives and organizations.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alice Bethesda, MD, United States 05-03-14
    Alice Bethesda, MD, United States 05-03-14 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Tell the Brits to stop attempting American accents"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Interesting ideas expressed well.


    What did you like best about this story?

    Variety of examples.


    What do you think the narrator could have done better?

    Especially since this is non-fiction I dearly wish the (British) narrator had not attempted an American accent for any quote from an American. He does the usual things Brits do when (poorly) imitating Americans, for example very hard Rs and super flat "a" sound.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Probably not. Lots of ideas and history. One could, though, especially on a long drive or other trip.


    Any additional comments?

    Overall I like the narration. I am a half-Brit and Anglophile so I enjoy the basic British accent. He keeps the story moving and interesting. The writing is good, but it is non-fiction so it helps to have a good story-teller keeping it lively and supporting the writing.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    André ORLANDO, FL, United States 06-21-14
    André ORLANDO, FL, United States 06-21-14 Member Since 2011

    I love AUDIBLE! I never get mad at traffic jams and can listen to many different books, despite my short time.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "I liked it!"

    Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure is a book full of interesting stories, about some curious characters that I've never heard of. It is an easy listening that stresses trial and error and complexity of problems.
    His 3 Principles- try new things/ ideas; make failure survivable; learn from your mistakes and adapt, and in the end, he gives the the forth principle: security (or delusion of security).

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Evan Honolulu, HI, United States 02-12-13
    Evan Honolulu, HI, United States 02-12-13 Member Since 2010

    Business owner , philanthropist.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "NEW Ideas in HERE!"

    This book has some great ideas in it. Things that I have not heard before. Worth IT.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jose GLEN ALLEN, VA, United States 09-19-12
    Jose GLEN ALLEN, VA, United States 09-19-12
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    "Entertaining as well as instructive"
    If you could sum up Adapt in three words, what would they be?

    Adapt is a great listen, with compelling stories and a consistent theme.


    What other book might you compare Adapt to and why?

    Adapt is comparable to Wikinomics, in how they are both full of interesting examples illustrating different aspectsof their main themes.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    My favorite part is the narration of how Jeff Bezos drives Amazon employees to maximize the rate of experimentation.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jerry United States 07-30-12
    Jerry United States 07-30-12
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    "Overall — A description of what ails the world"

    Currently western culture does everything it can to wish away risk, thinking if we don't acknowledge the risks that are part of life, they will never happen. However taking risks and overcoming them is the basis all growth. If we ever want to see growth in all aspects of humanity we need to increase the rewards for risk takers, and realize that failure in not some sort of killer plague, but rather part of the process.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Chris St. Louis, MO, United States 06-27-11
    Chris St. Louis, MO, United States 06-27-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "In the vein of Predictably Irrational"

    If you liked Dan Ariely's book and the Freakonomics books, which I did, this is right up your alley. The only criticism I have is that the book doesn't flow as well as I would like. The first part about Iraq and Afghanistan just completely through me. I was beginning to feel cheated (I could really care less about the wars). But Harford managed to win me over and make it all relevant.

    2 of 5 people found this review helpful
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