Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure

I just finished reading this book from Tim Harford, author of The Undercover Economist and The Logic of Life. He is indeed one of my favorite pop culture economics writers.
In this groundbreaking book, Tim Harford, the Undercover Economist, shows us a new and inspiring approach to solving the most pressing problems in our lives. When faced with complex situations, we have all become accustomed to looking to our leaders to set out a plan of action and blaze a path to success. Harford argues that today’s challenges simply cannot be tackled with ready-made solutions and expert opinion; 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 the compelling story 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 financial crises—as well as in fostering innovation and creativity in our business and personal lives.
Taking us from corporate boardrooms to the deserts of Iraq, Adapt clearly explains the necessary ingredients for turning failure into success. It is a breakthrough handbook for surviving—and prospering— in our complex and ever-shifting world. -- Amazon.com
As for my personal commentaries, I have to say that the book is inspiring. This book exemplifies how we should not be afraid of making mistakes as long as we follow the "'Palchinsky principles.' First, seek out new ideas and try new things; second, when trying something new, do it on a scale where failure is survivable; third, seek out feedback and learn from your mistakes as you go along." I know this seems quite impossible to do and a little hard to process. Why should we want to fail when we can go to the safe route and just do what everybody thinks is right or just do what seems logical at the time. However, Tim Harford does make his point clear in the book. I think it is the way to spur innovation. If everyone went with the safe route, we would not have the internet as we know it today. Also, mistakes aren't always "mistakes" in a sense. We wouldn't have post-its or penicillin without some people making mistakes. :) I think the society just needs to change its attitude towards mistakes. This can be done especially if the society can let people experiment in smaller scales to be able to make failures survivable.

Anyway, I don't have as persuasive a voice as that of Tim Harford, so I recommend this book to anyone who wants to challenge the way he/she thinks. I give this book a two thumbs up! :D

Some things to think about from the book:
"The proliferation of iPhone and Android apps has hidden the uncomfortable truth, which is that innovation has become slower, harder and costlier, and in most areas we have fallen far short of the hopes of our predecessors."

"It's as if people used the invention of seatbelts as an opportunity to take up drunk-driving." - John Lanchester

"The ability to adapt requires this sense of security, an inner confidence that the cost of failure 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 truly succeed."

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