I really liked Tim Harford’s The Undercover Economist and The Logic of Life. His recent Adapt is good but not on par with his two other books.
The idea of failure as a driver of success it not new. Fail early, fail often, fail cheep is a well and long known slogan that sums up the gist of the book pretty well. Rapid prototyping (was hip when I learned programming) is a related development methodology that applies exactly this mantra to the development process.
Tim Harford presents a number of case studies, each focusing on a different aspect of the falling forward process. First, he shows how a lack of the willingness to adapt leads to devastating and utter failure. Then, how experimentation, the willingness to fail, can lead to success …eventually.
Each case study is linked to name. There is a face for each of the failures, trials, and successes. This helps to emotionally connect. You boo the rigid non-adaptors, you cheer the daring and successful adaptors. And this is where Tim Harford, at least from my perspective, fails. Adapt becomes an entry in the long list of self-improvement guidebooks.
By focusing so much on the extraordinary individuals, heros, and blockheads the more skeptic reader may get the feeling that Harford is talking about outliers, non-generalizable singular events (he is not; at one point he also cites and discusses a more rigorous study with lots of data; this gets completely lost later on). This is even more so as he mentions the same individual(s) over and over again at different places and in different contexts. It diminishes the credibility of main thesis. This is bad because I believe the idea of fail early, fail often, fail cheep to be good and true. I did not want to read a self-improvement book. A little bit more supporting data, a little bit more variation would have been nice.
A minor quarrel: why dispraise Hayek (I have the paperback edition) after using his work for supporting a point? What does this add to the thesis of the book?