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Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure Hardcover – May 10, 2011
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“[Harford] offers a very useful guide for people preparing to live in the world as it really is.” — David Brooks, The New York Times
“Tim Harford’s terrific new book urges us to understand profit from our muddling . . . Harford is a gifted writer whose prose courses swiftly and pleasurably. He has assembled a powerful combination of anecdotes and data to make a serious point: companies, governments and people must recognise the limits of their wisdom and embrace the muddling of mankind.” — Edward Glaeser, Financial Times
“Adapt is a highly readable, even entertaining, argument against top-down design. It debunks the Soviet-Harvard command-and-control style of planning and approach to economic policies and regulations and vindicates trial and error (particularly the error part) as a means to economic and general progress. Very impressive!” —Nassim N. Taleb, Distinguised Professor of Risk Engineering, NYU-Poly Institute and author of The Black Swan
“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
About the Author
Tim Harford is the Undercover Economist and Dear Economist columnist for the Financial Times. His writing has also appeared in Esquire, Forbes, New York magazine, Wired, The Washington Post, and The New York Times. His previous books include The Undercover Economist and The Logic of Life. Harford presents the popular BBC radio show More or Less and is a visiting fellow at London's Cass Business School. He is the winner of the 2006 Bastiat Prize for economic journalism and the 2010 Royal Statistical Society Award for excellence in journalism.
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Top customer reviews
Hartford's resources and interpretation are excellent, and the citations alone form a formidable addition to any "must read" list.
There are lots of wonderful perspectives in the book. To me the most interesting was the concept of decoupling implemented in the design of banking, nuclear reactors, and oil drilling platforms. If one part of a system fails, the other parts are protected from collateral failure. An absolute worst case failure causes very limited damage.
Decoupling a large, diverse bank would involve keeping the ordinary deposits accounts of individuals and corporations in a stand alone bank division. If the stand alone bank fails government protection of operations would be appropriate.
The rest of the banking activities would be in a separate bank that had no claim on the ordinary bank deposits or reserves. This means that capitalization for the ordinary bank part would in no way be connected to capitalization of the more speculative activities. If the speculative activities go bust they would have no affect on the capital and operations of the stand alone bank. The capital could not be moved or used in any way to cushion the speculative activities. An appropriate setup of the speculative bank should then be able to minimize the need for government backing.
Life is not risk free, but this book suggests that tremendous risks can be reduced by decoupling by design. I heartily recommend the book.
Anyway, I didn't like the military examples and all the stuff related to Irak. Maybe such examples make a clear point, but war stories are definitively not my my cup of tea. The main argument, trial and error are needed to reach success, is interesting, and many other sections of the book are valuable. If this is your first Harford's book, then I would suggest you having instead the one mentioned earlier. Otherwise, for those who like Harford, this is not his best (in my opinion), but it is not that bad.