- Audible Audio Edition
- Listening Length: 9 hours and 57 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books
- Audible.com Release Date: June 3, 2011
- Whispersync for Voice: Ready
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00546P9IS
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
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Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
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Top Customer Reviews
There is no doubt that the world and our individual lives are becoming more complex and challenging. The conventional approach to solving problems does not seem to work.
Mr. Harford builds a case for an unconventional approach - an experimental approach involving trial and error.
The book puts forth that there are three essential steps for successful adapting: The first is to try new things with the knowledge that some will fail; to make failure survivable since some of the attempts will surely fail and to make sure you know when you have failed.
The essential steps seem fairly straightforward. But Mr. Harford takes the reader on a journey through history, recalling many failures - Robert McNamara's handling of the war in Vietnam; Donald Rumsfeld's stubbornness dealing with the war in Iraq; The Piper Alpha rig explosion in the North Sea; and the Lehman Brothers financial meltdown.
He also recalls many things that worked and contrasts the different approaches used by the successful - trial and error and adapting.
There is a wonderful collection of historical events, psychological experiments and insights that we can put to use in our daily lives.
Some of the insights deal with large organizations and governments. Here the average reader may become a bit discouraged that those in charge, those who should know, get so attached to their own decisions that they can't/won't let go of them. Rumsfeld and McNamara come to mind.
Chapter six is particularly interesting. It deals with the recent financial meltdown and in particular the Lehman Brothers failure. There is a great insight in the need for decoupling. The concept is quite simple, separate (decouple)the transactions of financial institutions so that the failure of any one will not bring down others. Unfortunately so many banks and investments banks were so tightly connected that any adverse occurrence in one had an impact on the entire system. The decoupling concept applies not only to financial institutions but to safety concerns - think the Horizon disaster - Three Mile Island, etc.
Chapter seven and eight brings all the concepts together. Chapter seven takes all the concepts concerning organizations and chapter eight deals with the concepts as it applies to individuals.
The lessons concerning the adaptive organization might seem a little beyond the average reader. But there is no doubt that we all will benefit greatly from the lessons contained in Adapting and You (Chapter 8).
We should understand that the key to success in an ever changing world is adapting. And the key to adapting is: Try new things, try them in a context where failure is survivable and learn how to react to the failures we do encounter.
A very enjoyable read with lots of great lessons. For the individual, the last chapter is the most valuable.
Here are his own thoughts about the resiliency that is required of those who seek success, however defined: "The ability to adapt requires a sense of security, an inner confidence that the cost of failure [what I prefer to view as non-success or not-as-yet-success] is a cost we will be able to bear. Sometimes that takes real courage; at other times all that is needed is the happy self-delusion of a lost three-year-old. Whatever its source, we need that willingness to risk failure. Without it, we will never succeed."
The quest for business success involves constant experimentation. Obviously, the prospects for success are improved substantially within a workplace culture that encourages, supports, recognizes, and rewards prudent experimentation. But, as with ideas, the more experiments that are conducted, the more likely that there will be a breakthrough. The first challenge to leaders is to establish such a culture; the next and greater challenge is to sustain it. Harford has written this book to help his reader respond effectively to both challenges. His approach is philosophical, yes, because there are significant issues with important implications and potential consequences to take into full account. However, in my opinion, his approach is also pragmatic and his recommendations are eminently do-able.
Peter Palchinsky (1875-1929) is one of the most fascinating people discussed in the book. He was a Russian industrial engineer (often viewed as a technocrat) whose progressive ideas about human rights during Stalin's consolidation of power led to several arrests and finally, execution by a firing squad. Here is Harford's brief but precise explanation of Palchinsky's principles: "First, try new things; second, try them in context where failure is survivable. But the third an critical step is how to react to failure...[to avoid] several oddities of the human brain that often prevent us from learning from our failures and becoming more successful...It seems to be the hardest thing in the world to admit that we have made a mistake and try to put it right."
These are among the dozens of passages of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of Harford's coverage.
o The Soviet Union's "pathological inability to adapt" (Pages 21-27)
o Why learning from mistakes is hard (31-35)
o The Tal Afar experiment (50-56)
o Friedrich von Hayek and "knowledge of the particular circumstances of time and space" (74-78)
o Lottery tickets, positive black swans, and the importance of variation (83-86)
o Skunk Works and "freak machines" (86-89)
o "We should not try to design a better world. We should make better feedback loops." (140-143)
o The Greenhouse Effect, 1859 (154-156)
o The unexpected consequences of the Merton Rule" (169-174)
o Why safety systems bite back (186-190)
o Dominoes and zombie banks (200-202)
o Making experiments survivable (214-216)
o Adapting as we go along (221-224)
o Google's corporate strategy: have no corporate strategy (231-234)
o When companies become dinosaurs (239-244)
o "Challenge a status quo of your own making"(249-256)
Here is a brief excerpt from Chapter One: "We face a difficult challenge: the more complex and elusive our problems are, the more effective trial and error becomes, relative to the alternatives. Yet it is an approach that runs counter to our instincts, and to the way in which traditional organisations work. The aim of this book is to provide an answer to that challenge."