Johan Fourie's blog

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Adapt

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Adapt, by Tim Harford, is an easy-to-read account of trial-and-error in many different contexts. Not all projects succeed at first (and some never do), and Harford argues that this is a normal part of a capitalist society (mentality?). The most successful entrepreneurs/businesses/governments were those that experimented with different strategies/policies/techniques and learned from the many failures. The less successful ones were those that thought they knew the answer to their problem from the beginning and ostrich-like stuck to the outdated business model. These businesses go bust, and the reason they do is because they don’t adapt. Bottom-up management – empowering those closest to the action – is what works, top-down management usually result in stagnation an decline. Individuals, too, should adapt by being open to criticism, recognising their past mistakes and learn from them. The book is littered with case studies of such adaptation. Perhaps some of these could have been shortened; the chapters on climate change and the financial meltdown seem very familiar. But the message is clear and correct: as with evolution, we must continuously adapt to our changing environment. Sometimes we get lucky early on, but if not, we should learn from our failures and try again.

Written by Johan Fourie

January 22, 2012 at 13:40

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