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Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure (Englisch) Taschenbuch – Mai 2011

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Produktinformation

  • Taschenbuch: 309 Seiten
  • Verlag: Little, Brown and Company (Mai 2011)
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • ISBN-10: 1408701537
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408701539
  • Größe und/oder Gewicht: 13,5 x 2,3 x 21,6 cm
  • Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 4.3 von 5 Sternen  Alle Rezensionen anzeigen (3 Kundenrezensionen)
  • Amazon Bestseller-Rang: Nr. 163.733 in Fremdsprachige Bücher (Siehe Top 100 in Fremdsprachige Bücher)
  • Komplettes Inhaltsverzeichnis ansehen

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Produktbeschreibungen

Amazon.de

Author Q&A with Tim Harford

Tim Harford

So are you an economic missionary, or is this just something that you love to do?

It began as something that I love to do--and I think I am now starting to get a sense of it being a mission. People can use economics and they can use statistics and numbers to get at the truth and there is a real appetite for doing so. This is such a BBC thing to say--there’s almost a public service mission to be fulfilled in educating people about economics. When I wrote The Undercover Economist, it was all about my pure enthusiasm for the subject; the book is full of stuff I wanted to say and that is always the thing with the books: they are always such fun to write.

Do you think that people these days are generally more economically literate?

People are now aware of economics for various reasons. There are the problems with the economy--there is always more interest in economics when it is all going wrong.

Where is the border line in your new book between economics and sociology?

I don’t draw a border line, and particularly not with the new book. The Undercover Economist was basically all the cool economics I could think of and The Logic of Life was me investigating a particular part of economics. All of the references in The Logic of Life were academic economics papers that I had related--and hopefully made more fun. This new book, Adapt, is very different. I have started by asking what is wrong with the world, what needs fixing, how does it work--and if economics can tell us something about that (which it can) then I have used it. And if economics is not the tool that you need--if you need to turn to sociology or engineering or biology or psychology--I have, in fact, turned to all of them in this book. If that’s what you need, then that’s where I have gone. So I have written this book in a different way: I started with a problem and tried to figure out how to solve it.

What specific subjects do you tackle?

To be a bit more specific, the book is about how difficult problems get solved and I look at quick change; the banking crisis; poverty; innovation, as I think there is an innovation slow-down; and the war in Iraq. Also, I look at both problems in business and in everyday life. Those are the big problems that I look at--and my conclusion is that these sorts of problems only ever get solved by trial and error, so when they are being solved, they are being solved through experimentation, which is often a bottom-up process. When they are not being solved it is because we are not willing to experiment, or to use trial and error.

Do you think companies will change to be much more experimental, with more decisions placed in the hands of employees?

I don’t think that is necessarily a trend, and the reason is that the market itself is highly experimental, so if your company isn’t experimental it may just happen to have a really great, successful idea--and that’s fine; if it doesn’t, it will go bankrupt. But that said, it is very interesting to look at the range of companies who have got very into experimentation--they range from the key-cutting chain Timpson’s to Google; you can’t get more different than those two firms, but actually the language is very similar; the recruitment policies are similar; the way the employees get paid is similar.

The “strap line” of the book is that “Success always starts with failure.” You are a successful author… so what was the failure that set you up for success?

I was working on a book before The Undercover Economist… it was going to be a sort of Adrian Mole/Bridget Jones’ Diary-styled fictional comedy, in which the hero was this economist and through the hilarious things that happened to him, all these economic principles would be explained--which is a great idea--but the trouble is that I am not actually funny. Another example would be my first job as a management consultant… and I was a terrible management consultant. I crashed out after a few months. Much better that, than to stick with the job for two or three years-- a lot of people say you have got to do that to “show your commitment.” Taking the job was a mistake--why would I need to show my commitment to a mistake? Better to realise you made a mistake, stop and do something else, which I did.

That idea that “failure breeds success” is central to most entrepreneurs. Do you think we need more of it in the UK?

I think that the real problem is not failure rates in business; the problem is failure rates in politics. We need a much higher failure rate in politics. What actually happens is politicians--and this is true of all political parties--have got some project and they’ll say, “Right, we are going to do this thing,” and it is quite likely that idea is a bad idea--because most ideas fail; the world is complicated and while I don’t have the numbers for this, most ideas are, as it turns out, not good ideas.

But they never collect the data, or whatever it is they need to measure, to find out where their idea is failing. So they have this bad idea, roll this bad idea out and the bad idea sticks, costs the country hundreds, millions, or billions of pounds, and then the bad idea is finally reversed by the next party on purely ideological grounds and you never find out whether it really worked or not. So we have this very, very low willingness to collect the data that would be necessary to demonstrate failure, which is the bit we actually need.

To give a brief example: Ken Livingstone, as Mayor of London, came along and introduced these long, bendy buses. Boris Johnson came along and said, “If you elect me, I am going to get rid of those big bendy buses and replace them with double-decker buses.” He was elected and he did it, so… which one of them is right? I don’t know. I mean, isn’t that crazy? I know democracy is a wonderful thing and we voted for Ken Livingstone and we voted for Boris Johnson, but it would be nice to actually have the data on passenger injury rates, how quickly people can get on and off these buses, whether disabled people are using these buses… the sort of basic evidence you would want to collect.

Based on that, are you a supporter of David Cameron’s “Big Society”, which in a sense favours local experimentation over central government planning?

Well, I have some sympathy for the idea of local experimentation, but what worries me is that we have to have some mechanism that is going to tell you what is working and what is not--and there is no proposal for that. Cameron’s Tories seem to have the view that ‘if it is local then it will work.’ In my book, I have all kinds of interesting case studies of situations where localism really would have worked incredibly well, as in, say, the US Army in Iraq. But I have also got examples of where localism did not work well at all--such as a corruption-fighting drive in Indonesia.

Is the new book, Adapt, your movement away from economic rationalist to management guru? Are you going to cast your eye over bigger problems?

The two changes in Adapt are that I have tried to start with the problem, rather than saying, “I have got a hammer--I’m going to look for a nail.” I started with a nail and said, “Ok, look, I need to get this hammered in.” So I have started with the problem and then looked anywhere for solutions. And the second thing is that I have tried to do is write with more of a narrative. This is not a Malcolm Gladwell book, but I really admire the way that people like Gladwell get quite complex ideas across because they get you interested in the story; that is something that I have tried to do more of here. I am not too worried about it, because I know that I am never going to turn into Malcolm Gladwell--I am always going to be Tim Harford--but it doesn’t hurt to nudge in a certain direction.

On Amazon, we recommend new book ideas to people: “If you like Tim Harford you may like…”, but what does Tim Harford also like?

I read a lot of books, mostly non-fiction and in two categories: people who I think write a lot better than I do, and people who think about economics more deeply than I do. In the first category I am reading people like Michael Lewis, Kathryn Schulz (I loved her first book, Being Wrong), Malcolm Gladwell and Alain de Botton. In the second category, I read lots of technical economics books, but I enjoy Steven Landsburg, Edward Glaeser (who has a book out now which looks good), Bill Easterly… I don’t necessarily agree with all of these people!

When I am not reading non-fiction, I am reading comic books or 1980s fantasy authors like Jack Vance.

Click here to read a longer version of this interview.

Pressestimmen

The Undercover Economist’s latest, winning theory is that making mistakes helps people to succeed. . . . This is an excellent book. . . . utterly compelling.”
The Sunday Times (UK)
 
“Intelligent exploration that draws thoughtful conclusions on highly complex world events. . . . [Harford’s] claims might not be as decisive as his American contemporaries—also riding the wave of popular economics—but they are more robust and as a consequence more significant.”
City A.M. (UK)
 
“A novel approach to problem-solving.” 
Big Think

“Terrific new book. . . . 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.”
Financial Times

 “[A] wealth of fascinating case studies.”
The New York Times (The 6th Floor)

 
“Persuasive new book. . . . [Harford] knows how to deal with complicated subjects in lay terms, gracefully holding a line of accessible elucidation without veering into patronising oversimplification. . . . Harford’s invitation to a fireside chat in No 10, if not issued already, cannot be far off.”
the Guardian (UK)
 
“Harford’s case histories are well chosen and artfully told, making the book a delight to read. But its value is greater than that. Strand by strand, it weaves the stories into a philosophical web that is neat, fascinating and brilliant. Like the best popular science, it advances the subject as well as conveying it, drawing intriguing conclusions about how to run companies, armies and research labs. . . . It would be hard to improve Harford’s outstanding book.”
Nature
 
“A very good read. . . . open, clear and persuasive.”
Management Today (UK)
 
“Conjures inspiring visions of redemption from the wreckage of failure. . . . an interesting guide for determined and open-minded entrepreneurs.”
Mortgage Strategy (UK)
 


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5 von 5 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich Von Helen Hancox am 4. Juli 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
I'm not sure entirely who is expected to buy this latest book by Tim Harford, but I wonder if the person-in-the-street, such as myself, might just be a suitable audience, rather than other economists.

My knowledge of economics is extremely basic. I've read some of a book (in German) by a German economist friend, and I listen to More or Less on Radio 4, which is of course presented by Tim Harford. His excellent presentation style on that programme made me pick up this book with some anticipation.

I wasn't disappointed. The same friendly, chatty style appears throughout this book. Things are explained clearly and efficiently and you aren't left feeling like you're a bit thick if you aren't conversant with the latest economic theory. The book abounds with examples in daily life of what he's talking about, whether it's military engagements by the US army or employee benefits in Timpsons the keycutters. It made the book always interesting and lent authority to his arguments.

The book is very well structured with chapters dealing with overall situations (such as the Afghanistan/Iraq wars, climate change, the financial crisis, business structure) but broken down into many subheadings which mean it's easy to pick the book up and read for a few minutes without completely losing the thread. Tim Harford's research and wide-ranging knowledge help to make this a fascinating read.

I did feel that at times there was a fairly black and white presentation of events, particularly with regard to the hugely complex Afghanistan conflict. It was as if 'it was all going wrong, and then someone adapted/came up with a new plan and now it's great.
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3 von 3 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich Von Pillkahn (innovation-review.de) am 29. März 2013
Format: Taschenbuch
Märkte funktionieren so ähnlich wie die Evolution, zumindest gibt es Mechanismen wie Variation, Selektion und Retention. Dadurch ergibt sich ein bestimmtes Maß an Ungewissheit für Organisationen. Bei aller Planungssicherheit müssen Unternehmen und deren verantwortliche Manager in der Lage sein, Situationen einzuschätzen und Pläne, Strukturen, Systeme und die Organisation anzupassen. Das und insbesondere die Einsicht in Fehlentscheidungen - so der Autor - scheint für viele der machtversessenen Führungskräfte schwierig zu sein. Die Geschichten von Rumsfeld und McNamara zeigen auf beeindruckende Weise die fatalen Entwicklungen. The key to learning from mistakes was not to stick blindly to the official chain of command but subvert it where necessary..." (S.78)
Ähnliches gilt für neue Technologien: Man kann sie nur bis zu einem gewissen Grad wirklich planen und sollte sich viel mehr auf Experimente einlassen (Bsp. Spitfire, S.80f). Die aus meiner Sicht interessanteste Erkenntnis wird im Kapitel 3 erläutert. Es werden zwei Selektionsmechanismen verglichen (NIH vs HHMI). Während das eine (NIH) Experten-basiert ist und auf erwartete Ergebnisse zielt, setzt das andere auf Unsicherheit und wählt Projekte nach Neuigkeit aus. Die Ergebnisse sind viel origineller und waren oft der Beginn neuer Forschungsrichtungen. Harford belegt damit, dass es nicht reicht, Fehler zu vermeiden. Für wirklich originelle Innovationen lassen sich Fehler nicht vermeiden (S. 103).
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0 von 1 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich Von Bert Bos am 9. April 2015
Format: Taschenbuch Verifizierter Kauf
Auf Empfehlung von mein Chef gekauft.
Schönes Thema, gute Stories.
Buch macht Spaß zum lesen.
Gibt's auch als Hörbuch übrigens.
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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 77 Rezensionen
67 von 71 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
A Blueprint for Adapting 4. April 2011
Von John Chancellor - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Vine Kundenrezension eines kostenfreien Produkts ( Was ist das? )
You may wonder about the need for adapting. Tim Harford, the author makes a very strong case for learning to adapt. "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. The aim of this book is to provide an answer to that challenge."

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.
95 von 104 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Interesting anecdotes, unconvincing thesis 22. Mai 2011
Von PriceTheory - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
As always, Tim Harford finds the most interesting economic research and explains it well. As I read Adapt, I was frequently inspired to go online and look up the economics he reports on. The section on evolved virtual creatures prompted me to visit YouTube and watch for myself how animal-like forms evolved through computer simulations. After reading about the unintended consequences of some foreign aid programs, I had to see what a Play Pump looks like and watch the interviews with teachers who preferred the old borehole pumps. Adapt is an excellent collection of quotes, stories, and research findings on innovation and economic evolution.

However, the book falls short in a few ways. First, although Harford's writing is generally clear, he employs some annoying rhetorical devices that should have been edited out. One is that he repeatedly withholds the name of the person whose work he's discussing until he has built up all the details of the story. Only once he's laid out the research results does he reveal that the anonymous manager is a famous figure or someone we met in the last chapter. It's as if Harford isn't confident that the research will hold anyone's attention, so he has to play games with the reader. Equally irksome is his tendency to repeat points again and again, reminding readers of things he mentioned two pages back that no one could have forgotten.

The chapter on the financial crisis was also a disappointment. It devolved into boring jargon and obscure terms for different loans and contracts. Maybe it's not possible to make subprime mortgages entertaining, and I don't know if any other writer could have done a better job. But the book would have been more enjoyable without that tedious interlude.

But the main drawback is that Harford's thesis that economic progress parallels evolution in the natural world is not fully developed or defended. Certainly, economic progress is like evolution in that bad products disappear and good technology, like good genes, is passed along. Harford's assertion that isolation is a necessary precondition of creativity seems less persuasive. He gives examples from evolutionary biology in which populations adapted differently because they were separated by physical barriers. Harford then offers the example of researchers who moved out to Utah or Arizona to get some space as proof that human innovators must be similarly isolated. But is that really true in the world of human ideas? I'm not convinced. Virtually all innovators of the last century had some kind of intellectual peer group, either through a university or social circle. And modern communications enable researchers in Utah to keep abreast of the latest ideas and theories. They're not separated intellectually from their peers the way guppies in different ponds are separated physically. Furthermore, Harford does not fully explain what process in the economy corresponds to sexual reproduction in the natural world. How do good ideas spread if they're not identified by a manager from the top? Harford alludes to imitation by other economic actors, but doesn't show how or why this occurs.

Adapt is worthwhile reading as a starting-point for investigating economic research on innovation, but its model of economic development as a corollary to biological evolution is not completely satisfactory.
20 von 22 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Important book 10. Mai 2011
Von Aretae - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Adapt is a well written book with compelling examples that covers, in my opinion, the single most important topic in how to think about thinking:

To a first approximation, rational deduction fails 100% of the time, when applied to the messy real world. The ONLY path to success is to try, fail, and adapt.

The examples are engaging, the writing is pleasant, and there are soundbites throughout that are wonderful. My favorite in the second half of the book was a joke making fun of self-help and business books.

The flow of the book goes roughly:

1. What's the likelihood of getting something wrong? (~100%)
2. What can we do? (Feedback + Adaptation)
3. What about situations where we have to get it right (Nuclear power plants?)
4. How do organizations adapt (Low central control).
5. How do individuals adapt (It's hard).

The book was generally very strong. The variety of examples throughout was particularly impressive. Anyone who doesn't already understand the idea that we all are wrong up front most of the time should have this book stapled to their hands. Considering myself well read in this space, I saw a new example I was unfamiliar with every third page.

Among my favorite of the little examples that I was unfamiliar with:
Paul Ormerod ran math models of corporate extinctions that lined up pretty well with math models of species extinctions. However, the math models only worked (had decent predictivity) if the assumption was that none of them were any good at all at predicting the future:

"It was possible to build a model that mimicked the real extinction signature of firms, and it was possible to build a model that represented firms as moderately successful planners; but it was not possible to build a model that did both."

2-3 years ago, I concluded that there was a wide open market for a book on the twin topics of ubiquitous error and feedback. I started a blog partly because the topic needed addressed, and it hadn't been addressed in the modern literature. Indeed, it was contradicted by most of the modern discussions. on any topic.

This book is easily the most important of the modern big idea-books. Malcolm Gladwell's minor insights are tiny details in comparison.

Quibbles:

I was less than impressed by his treatment of point 3 above...but I'm less than impressed by my treatment of the topic as well...I don't think there is a good answer, and while Harford seems to admit as much at the end of the chapter (6), the rest of the chapter seems to be attempting to suggest a solution.

If I had written the book...I'd have pulled in 2 additional topics:

What does this mean for government?
My favorite prior thinkers in this direction are: John Boyd, W. Edwards Deming, and Kent Beck, and Frederich Hayek. Only Hayek is referenced, and lightly.

Minor quibbles aside...the book is required reading.
7 von 7 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
A fantastic look at what works in the real world 31. Mai 2011
Von Jeffrey Yutzler - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Tim Harford's new book examines how variation, selection, and decoupling combine to allow organizations to adapt to meet complex challenges. Variation is all about encouraging innovative approaches, some of which defy conventional wisdom. Selection is the dark art of figuring out what works and doesn't. Decoupling applies at two levels. The first is making experiments small enough that if they fail, they can be closed at minimal cost. At a lower level, decoupling is about designing systems whose parts are independent enough so that if one fails, the failure does not cascade to catastrophic levels. Harford uses a wide range of scenarios to describe each tenet and illustrate how they have worked in the past and how they can come together in the future to the benefit of all.

Harford's writing style is something every author in a technical field should aspire to. He uses everyday language and a clever sense of humor to explain complex concepts in the simplest terms possible, avoiding the jargon that makes many books impenetrable to the layperson. Perhaps more importantly, the book is carefully researched and sourced. Many of the examples will not be new information to the well-informed reader, but few of us have sources to back up the points at our fingertips. For someone like me who likes to debate some of these topics, the book is a gold mine of references.

To me the most important message is implied throughout the book but spelled out in the last two chapters. What does it mean to be adaptive, either as a person or as an organization? At its core, it is not a book about adaptation but about leadership. He takes dead aim at by-the-book top-down management approaches, providing a compelling argument that these approaches are part of the problem and must be eradicated to allow us to solve our toughest problems. He shows how many of the best ideas are developed by experts at lower levels of the organization. It is a lesson that every leader should take to heart.

My biggest issue with the book is the title. It goes beyond "Why?" to what I consider to be the far more important question, "How?". To me, a more appropriate title is "Adaptation: How Allowing Failure Leads to Success." Because of this, I find the book to be not just entertaining but important.
18 von 22 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Tim Harford's "Adapt" a study of failure, reward. 10. April 2011
Von Barb Caffrey - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Vine Kundenrezension eines kostenfreien Produkts ( Was ist das? )
Tim Harford's "Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure" is a book about economic case study, written in an engaging, fast-moving way but without losing any of its erudition. Harford discusses many different types of business models, including the United States Army (the chapter about how the Army needed to adapt, pronto, in the Middle East is must-read stuff), various scientific endeavors (including one gentleman who studied mouse genetics, who succeeded by refusing to adapt, realizing that the world would adapt to him, not the reverse), and all sorts of economic pursuits. And in all of them, one thing is continuous: we fail. Again, and again, and again. And a smart manager, or businessman, or Army Captain on up, realizes this and either learns from his mistakes in order to succeed, or he'll fail over, and over, and over again.

The trick of life, Harford says, is to learn from your mistakes. This is such a truism that you'd not think anyone could hang a book around it except a feel-good psychologist -- but Harford is an economist (one of his other books is called "The Undercover Economist") and he looks at things more scientifically and rationally than I'd expected when I'd ordered this book.

I appreciated the insights being given here in "Adapt" precisely because Harford used case studies that were provable and relevant. It added a great deal to the readability of this book by covering topical subjects (including the TransOcean fiasco which poured billions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico) in an entertaining, fast-moving, yet brilliant way . . . all I can say is bravo to Harford, and bravissimo to his editor.

A shade under five stars (rounded up for Amazon's purposes), highly recommended for anyone who wants to understand the economy a little better -- or better yet, wants to figure out how to learn from his own mistakes in order to succeed the next time out.

Barb Caffrey
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