In this groundbreaking book, 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—improvise rather than plan, work from the bottom up rather than the top down, and take baby steps rather than great leaps forward.
I listened with great interest to Tim’s interview on Radio National’s Counterpoint. He discussed:
- Planning failures in a complex world … even in relation to toasters!
- Error correction … “success is about error correction”. “We tend not to acknowledge failure.”
- Willingness to accept independent evaluation is a sign of strength not weakness.
- Show humility in acknowledging error.
- Adrian Hewitt and the Merton Rule.
- Encouraging differences of opinion and dissent in the discussion of strategic initiatives: lessons from the US military. (This is a fascinating part of the interview that introduces Irving Janis, Solomon Asch, H R McMaster, David Patraeus, and Major General Jack Galvin.)
Tim’s interview concluded with three principles for an adaptive organisation:
1. Try new things: expose yourself to outside influences. Accept the failure of tools … that is why you need lots of tools.
2. Make sure failures do not finish you off: have survivable small bets.
3. Make sure you know the difference between success and failure.
Adapt or Perish