Saturday, July 28, 2012

Adapt, by Tim Harford

ADAPT is about using failure in a positive way, in business or any other field of life. It shows how, facing unprecedented degrees of complexity, we should use evolutionary processes and start solving problems through trial and error.

ADAPT provides diverse applications of the three “Palchinsky principles”:
  1. Seek out new ideas and try new things;
  2. When trying something new, do it on a scale where failure is survivable;
  3. Seek out feedback and learn from your mistakes as you go along.

Here's a short video presenting the book:

What's In It For HR Pros?

When working in Organizational Design, Talent Management or Strategic HR, we often rely on certain hypotheses that find themselves seriously challenged by Tim HARFORD's views.

Among these challenging points:
  • We badly need to believe in the potency of leaders. […] We have an inflated sense of what leadership can achieve in the modern world.
  • We tell ourselves a story about how change happens: that the solution to any problem is a new leader with a new strategy.[…] It is impossible to know in advance what the correct strategy will be.
  • Mos people overestimate the value of centralized knowledge, and tend to overlook 'knowledge of the particular circumstances of time and place'. In other words, as organizations are confronted with a diverse, fast-moving range of markets, the advantage of decentralization, rapid adaptation to local circumstances, has grown.
  • You should not let people at the head office run the business.
The book has a short (but interesting) chapter called “The Adaptive Organization”. In this part, HARFORD makes the case for innovative management practices, like:
  • Self-selecting teams, where colleagues vote to decide if a new employee will be kept after his trial period
  • Ambitious “refer a friend” recruiting schemes
  • Upside-down management (a form of empowerment)
  • Peer monitoring
  • The strategy of having no corporate strategy
The last chapter, titled “Adapting and You”, offers uplifting views about personal development.

Book Data

To know more about the author, you can visit or follow him at @TimHarford

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