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:
- We all fail a lot.
- What can we do? Feedback + Adaptation
- What about situations where we have to get it right (Nuclear power plants?)
- How do organizations adapt (Low central control).
- How do individuals adapt (It's hard).
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. Part of why I started a blog was that 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.
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.