Adapt (2011) by Tim Harford is the latest book from the Financial Times journalist, host of More or Less and author. Harford wrote the excellent Undercover Economist.

The book attempts to put forward a unifying thesis that adaptions and response to failure is a critical part of most success.

The book covers different examples of organisations adapting to problems that include an excellent chapter on the US military changing their response to insurgency in Iraq, innovation with examples that include the Spitfire, DNA alteration, longitude and others, the problems of 3rd world development and greenhouse gas emissions reduction, financial meltdown and a chapter on how people can try to be adaptive.

The examples in the book are fascinating, particular those on Iraq and on Development. The Iraq chapter looks at David Patreus and HR MCMaster and the development chapter at microfinance and using randomised trials for working out what works in development.

The book is, however, a bit less than the sum of its parts. Harford is a very good writer but in this book he has attempted to provide a unifying thesis that doesn’t quite come off. You could well imagine a book about how persistence was the vital ingredient that provided numerous fascinating counter-examples where people refused to adapt and change as others were and had good results. However, for all the ‘loyal listeners’ and for anyone looking for a good non-fiction book to read Adapt is well worth a look.



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