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Why Most Things Fail: And How to Avoid It

Why Most Things Fail: And How to Avoid It [Kindle Edition]

Paul Ormerod
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Product Description


"'Engrossing and entertaining... A careful, comprehensible analysis of the limits of human rationality's ability to control the world.' Alasdair Palmer, Sunday Telegraph 'Gripping stuff.' Krishna Guha, Financial Times"

Book Description

The essential book on why some business fail ... and how to avoid it.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 935 KB
  • Print Length: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber Non Fiction (22 Dec 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004H1TC2K
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #234,707 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed 11 May 2006
I was expecting to get more from this than I did. As a critique of mainstream economics it succeeds, and as a way of modelling economic activity it appears to offer some genuine insight. The idea of bringing economics up to date with some of the more creative methods from the natural sciences is a welcome one, and it is even a good read.

The ending (what is to be done) is really weak though, so having teased us with little asides from Shakespeare and Voltaire, appearing to be leading us towards a brilliant final twist, we are left with a resounding 'so what'.

Does the model he has developed tell us anything new or important about fizzy drinks, and if it does, why would it matter? This can't be the main purpose.

On the other hand, there are some curious, mildly radical, political issues arising here and there, about endogenous, inevitable system failure, and even how this might be a good thing, but instead we get rather forced case studies, usually involving Anglo American business stereotypes as reassurance.

I would have preferred it if he had simply stated that the technique he is developing is new, and that he doesn't know what it means. However, for anybody studying economics, read Ormerod, but maybe not this one first!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How evolution explains business failures 29 Jun 2009
By Rolf Dobelli TOP 500 REVIEWER
This excellent, short work by Paul Ormerod is a worthy successor to his remarkably successful Butterfly Economics. As he did in that work, he draws here on lessons from biology to explain phenomena in economics. He covers a wide range of subjects, time periods and theories, all tied together (though not without some straining at the rope) by an inquiry into failure. Although Ormerod makes every effort to keep the work accessible, that scarcely makes it is easy reading. Readers who lack at least a nodding acquaintance with scientific writings and economic studies may find this hard slogging indeed. With that caveat, getAbstract thinks that readers who have a background in this field should pay serious attention to Ormerod's ideas. The notion that failure is inherent and inevitable for many systems ought to guide business strategies and - especially - government regulation.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Plan and experiment 1 Jan 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Economics is supposed to be the study of human behaviour as human beings make choices to satisfy their needs/wants using scarce resources. At least that's what I learnt in high school. However, the more I learn about economics the more it seems that economics--at least as is taught in many universities--is not about human beings.

As part of my Ph.D. programme, I took a course on microeconomic theory and was chuffed that the predictions of economic theory are mathematically elegant, but shaky. Why do human beings not behave as `rational' economic theory would predict? Why do human beings not scout for the best solution to satisfy their needs from a menu of available options and then choose the option that maximises utility?

In this book, Paul Ormerod challenges key economic concepts like equilibrium, perfect information and perfect competition. Mr. Ormerod is clearly not enamoured of economic theory. He discusses the history of these concepts as `physics envy': economists in the eighteenth century assumed that the economy--like many physical systems--will reach a predictable equilibrium. That may be harmless theory, but, according to Mr. Ormerod, these concepts have dominated economic thought and policy. The result: policy prescriptions to economic problems have often done more harm than good and well-meaning social policies (such as racially integrated neighbourhoods and schools) flounder.

The author uses recent research from the biological sciences (for example on the size and probability of biological extinction events inferred from the fossil record) to argue that the economy is more like a complex ecosystem that is hardly predictable. Perhaps, most importantly, Mr.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars counter intuitive findings 15 Jun 2007
Paul has written a fascinating and entertaining book on the probability of failure and develops what he calls an extinction model. As a strategist working within large corporations I found the application of these ideas to the world of work a novel and practical use of the 'extinction factor'.

He goes on to examine the factors that prevent extinction, one major finding was that only a small increase in the application of knowledge and information (5%) in the formation of Strategies will improve survival chances by 40%. Further improvement towards 10% and survival chances increase exponentially. The book uses many cases to explain how this is achieved.

One other counter intuitive finding was mild tendencies at the individual level within organisations create marked differences at the level of the corporate system as a whole. This has enormous implications for the world of organisational development.

I now use many of the statistics and contexts Paul provides in material I use with senior executives.

Excellent book.
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Popular Highlights

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‘The tendency to overemphasize successes, and to rationalize them ex post is chronically endemic amongst business historians and management consultants.’ &quote;
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Risk refers to situations in which the outcome cannot be known with certainty, but the probability of any given outcome is understood perfectly. &quote;
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Control and prediction of the system as a whole is simply not possible. &quote;
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