"Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure" by Tim Harford

Brian Gongol

One-paragraph review: "Adapt" is an original take on what should be a familiar concept: That a combination of evolutionary experiments and serendipitous exposure to new ideas and information will tend to guide people and institutions toward survival -- and perhaps even a thriving future. Sourced more from pleasant anecdotes than hard academic research, it is representative of the sort of economic thinking that ought to be common sense, if only it were more common to want to think about how we reach our decisions. As with any book of this nature, it is possible to take the basic concept too far and imagine that it forms the answer to every question; author Tim Harford generally avoids this pitfall by acknowledging that adaptation and experimentation fall within a broader framework of openness to unconventional ideas and bottom-up decision-making. In fact, the worst overreach may be the subtitle of the book itself; the text itself nowhere seems to argue that failure is a necessary precondition -- only openness to experimentation, which requires openness to failure.

Verdict: An excellent read in behavioral economics for people who aren't at all interested in things with names like "behavioral economics".

Narration: The audiobook narration is vivid, clear, and well above average in every way but one: Narrator Jonathan Keeble should have dispensed with his affect an accent or a voice for every quotation. His natural accent -- the classic English "received pronunciation" -- makes it distracting when he tries to shift into a faux-French or western-states American accent. Aside from that minor (but still distracting) quibble, the audiobook production quality was certainly in the top 20% of its peer group.