May 23rd, 2011
05:53 AM GMT
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(CNN) - At last, someone who understands that failure is NOT the end of the world. Finally, a business book that doesn’t make me and half the people I know feel like idiots for not inventing Facebook first! A kindred spirit, I thought, as I sat down to interview Financial Times columnist Tim Harford about his new book “Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure.”

You see, Harford understands that success requires failure – over and over again. Even when you don’t realize you’ve failed in business, chances are you have. Chances are you learned from it. And chances are the next thing you undertook was better because of it.

Harford advocates making room to experiment and fail in your daily work environment. Easier said than done!

His examples include Lehman Brothers – a collapse of mind-numbing complexity – and a spate of problems too big to solve. Harford makes the case that preventing colossal failures would be easier if we’d just embrace the smaller ones along the way. Failure, he says, is under-rated (be sure to tell that to your boss at your next performance review will you?)

Harford’s examples include the banking crisis, the Iraq war, even climate change. What would you be more likely to fail at: Building a toaster or staging a Broadway musical? You might be surprised. There is a lot of high economics in plain English in Harford’s book—a delightful read!



soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. Daryl

    What an idiot. Success linked to failure is probably found in a minority of the personalities types that exist. The majority people see failure as further exascerbating low self esteem. Rather than push them forward and enable innovation and initiative it generally does the opposite and causes fear to take hold. You would find that people who continue after Failure and Suceed had already had a quantifying level of Success prior to these events and garner the esteem and confidence to continue. Colossal Failures are often the combination of Multiple Minor failures from Multiple parties. Overlaying a large scale failure onto one individual personality is completely without Merit. I wonder how many attempts Tim hartford took in writing a book? Numerous? Did he fail but draw strength from his professional position? or did he Fail and give up, and change direction, thus embracing the mantra 'Hey. failing isnt so bad, I failed so badly, I wrote about a different topic?" (Cynicism at its Finest)

    May 23, 2011 at 9:03 am |
  2. Abramo

    So, there's still hope! - ??

    May 23, 2011 at 10:28 am |
  3. BB

    It sounds like an excuse for this terrible article.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:37 am |
  4. Rick Bangkok

    Good topic. Awful happy talk talking head. She acts like a know it all. She stepped on too many of his sound bytes.

    May 23, 2011 at 11:11 am |
  5. aldrin bartolo

    its a good thing to differentiate failing in politics and in business. because the two has a really different view in terms of failing. i already read the book "dare to fail" by Billi lim. and for sure that book of Tim harford is a must read book.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
  6. Anne

    That's why the Chinese are so successful.....they fail.... a lot

    May 23, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
  7. Syed Mustafa Amjed

    I wonder what your response would be to the success wave that Apple is riding? Are they successful because they failed early on in their life cycle with various products post Apple II range. Or they are successful because they do not want to fail and are quite meticulous about what gets to the market i.e. fix and then market as opposed to what Microsoft does-market first, fix later.

    May 23, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
  8. David Brown

    The lessons that I have learnt from failures are lessons that I will never repeat. They have enhanced my sense of awareness and helped me to develop a much stronger will to succeed.
    I am working on my 4th business and thanks to my experience I have a much better chance at success and fear does not in anyway hold me back from making the important decisions.

    May 23, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
  9. John Marshall

    I started my first business in my early 20's. Never made any money. Started a second business. Same result. Had to go bankrupt to keep the judgements from paralizing my abilty to work. Kept working, pushing, even graduated college. At 40 I started another business. 10 years later I have 55 employees an international business and a large income. Paid off most of the old debt. Business is booming. Would it have happned anyway? Who knows. I wish it would have happened in my 20's, but maybe I would have blown it all. You do get better at it with time. When people come to me with a business idea, I can get a clue if it will work or not based on my failure and success.

    May 23, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
  10. milan

    Most important lesson is that this civilization is on move and nothing stay still, go forward no meter you luzing or not

    May 23, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
  11. Matt

    Daryl, judging by your commentary, you didn't listen to the authors comments and made massive assumptions based on the few paragraphs posted above. This book isn't intended as a self help book, nor does it discuss personality types. His point is that you have to take risks to make great gains, and sometimes risk results in failure. As long as these risks are calculated and you learn from your failures instead of deny or ignore them, they can work to your benefit. I won't be as quick to judge your intellect or personality with any certainty, as you were with the author based on so little information, but as a guess, I think your a person of average to below average intelligence who is afraid of even small failures.

    May 23, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
  12. awang alias

    1 + 1 = 3 ?
    Cheers, awang

    May 23, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
  13. Andrian Harsono

    Failure is under-rated. In a world where people shun away from taking responsibility out of fear of making mistakes, I find it refreshing to see people take ownership of big large projects at work and giving it everything they've got. They will make mistakes, but that's how you learn.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:28 pm |
  14. sapsxy

    hi John Marshall,.interesting comment,whats your company's line of work ? and whats your degree in ?
    Did you pursue full time education and were working at the same time?whats more important-passion or a idea to
    make money ?

    May 24, 2011 at 6:28 am |
  15. Gary Cooper

    This note is an EPIC FAIL

    May 24, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
  16. Verne Glassman

    Years ago on the television show CSI the lead character Grissam uncharistically made statements at the start of the show about what had happened and who was responsible; he was proven wrong. The staff ribbed him about being wrong and his answer was "I am often wrong, that is how I get to right", which by the way is also the scientific method.

    May 24, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
  17. icons set

    You commit an error. I can prove it. Write to me in PM.

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    September 20, 2012 at 12:35 pm |

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