When faced with complex problems, we have all become accustomed to looking to our leaders to set out a grand vision, experts to draw up a detailed plan of action, or gurus who can provide us with some infallible solution. In this groundbreaking book, Tim Harford shows us a new and inspiring approach to solving the most pressing problems in our lives. Harford argues that today’s challenges simply cannot be tackled with ready-made solutions and expert opinions; the world has become far too unpredictable and profoundly complex. Instead, we must adapt—improvise rather than plan, work from the bottom up rather than the top down, and take baby steps rather than great leaps forward. Drawing from research across disciplines—psychology, evolutionary biology, anthropology, physics, mathematics, political science, and economics—and interviews with some of the world’s most pioneering leaders, thinkers, and strategists, Harford reveals hard-won lessons learned in the field and the importance of adaptive, trial-and-error processes in tackling issues such as fostering innovation, climate change, poverty, the financial crises, and conflict. From a spaceport in the Mojave Desert, to the street battles of Iraq, to a blazing offshore drilling rig, to everyday decisions in our business and personal lives, this is a handbook for surviving—and prospering—in our complex and ever-shifting world. Adapt was a Bloomberg Business Book of the Year, 2011. Leadership Book of the Year, 2011 in the Axion Business Book Awards     Kindle buyers in continental Europe For reasons too tedious to explain, the UK edition of “Adapt” is available via on Kindle in mainland Europe. You should have best luck buying it via the device itself. Apologies to those who’ve struggled!


“Harford’s case histories are well chosen and artfully told, making the book a delight to read. But its value is greater than that. Strand by strand, it weaves the stories into a philosophical web that is neat, fascinating and brilliant. Like the best popular science, it advances the subject as well as conveying it, drawing intriguing conclusions about how to run companies, armies and research labs… It would be hard to improve Harford’s outstanding book.


Harford’s style manages to be accessible while thoughtfully conveying complex ideas. In many ways, he can be seen as a logical, even more universal descendant of Peter Senge (The Fifth Discipline). A truly talented writer with an innovative mind, Harford should get some well-deserved attention for this.”

Publishers Weekly

“Sometimes a writer comes up with such a compelling idea, you will him to succeed page after page… This is an excellent book”

The Sunday Times

Wonderful book.

Steven B. Johnson, Author of “Where Good Ideas Come From”

“There are great surfers who seem to catch every wave and ride it all the way in. They achieve a higher level of mastery than the rest of us – learning through trial and error. They are inspiring figures, and some are exampled in Harford’s book. Harford’s heroes are deeply, thoughtfully engaged in their environment and strive for mastery over it… a very good read.

Management Today

“Tim Harford could well be Britain’s Malcolm Gladwell. An entertaining mix of popular economics and psychology, this excellently written book contains fascinating stories of success and failure that will challenge your assumptions. Insightful and clever.”

Alex Bellos, author of “Alex’s Adventures in Numberland”

Tim Harford’s terrific new book Adapt urges us to understand and profit from our muddling… Harford is a gifted writer whose prose courses swiftly and pleasurably. He has assembled a powerful combination of anecdotes and data to make a serious point: companies, governments and people must recognise the limits of their wisdom and embrace the muddling of mankind.”

Financial Times

“Tim Harford has made a compelling and expertly informed case for why we need to embrace risk, failure, and experimentation in order to find great ideas that will change the world. I loved the book.”

Dan Ariely, author of “Predictably Irrational” and “The Upside of Irrationality”

Adapt is a thought-provoking, exceptionally well-written book from an remarkably intelligent man.

Michael Noer, Forbes

“Tim Harford has done it again.. he has produced another excellent book full of insight and surprise. Just when you were ready to write-off economists, ADAPT shows how broad and useful their thinking can be. I wish I had written this book”

Evan Davis, Presenter of Today & Dragon’s Den

Harford’s invitation to a fireside chat in No 10, if not issued already, cannot be far off… He knows how to deal with complicated subjects in lay terms, gracefully holding a line of accessible elucidation without veering into patronising oversimplification.”

The Guardian

“For the good of the world, a bigger slice of humanity should be aware of its contents.”

David Brooks

“In a world that craves certainty, Harford makes a compelling case for why we can’t have it. A brilliant and oddly empowering book.”

Dave Gorman, Presenter of Genius

“ADAPT is a highly readable, even entertaining, argument against top-down design. It debunks the Soviet-Harvard command-and-control style of planning and approach to economic policies and regulations, and vindicates trial-and-error (particularly the */error/* part in it) as a means to economic and general progress. Very impressive!”

Nassim N Taleb, Distinguised Professor, NYU-Poly Institute, author of “The Black Swan”

Unspeakably excellent

Maria Popova, “Brainpicker”

“One of our most gifted popular economics writers. There’s a curiosity here about the way people and organizations solve problems that’s immediate and endearing.”

Canadian Business

“Harford’s wide-ranging look at social adaptation is fresh, creative, and timely.”

Sheena Iyengar, Professor, Columbia Business School, author of “The Art of Choosing”

“If I were in mischievous mood, I would go round the Savoy Grill or the next meeting of the Institute of Directors or gathering in Davos and put a copy of Adapt on every place.”

The Evening Standard

“This is a brilliant and fascinating book – Harford’s range of research is both impressive and inspiring, and his conclusions are provocative. The message about the need to accept failure has important implications, not just for policy making and but also for peoples’ professional and personal lives. It should be required reading for anyone serving in government, working at a company, trying to build a career – or simply trying to navigate an increasingly complex world.”

Gillian Tett, US Managing Editor of the Financial Times, author of “Fool’s Gold”

“Tim Harford employs Capecchi’s story as an eloquent example of what we have to gain from embracing the possibility of failure… the EU Commissioner for Research should pack Harford’s book for her summer holiday.”

The Times

“I honestly cannot recommend Adapt enough.”

Alex Knapp, Forbes

A Bloomberg “leading business book” of 2011

James Pressley, Bloomberg

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