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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring and amusing, 30 Nov 2012
This review is from: Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure (Paperback)
This is an inspiring and amusing argument for experimentation as a key strategic technique for the modern age. The book is full of amazing accounts of big plans that turned into epic disasters, from 19th century imperial Russian failures to organise mining to US military attempts to control Iraqi insurgencies and the recent meltdown of the banking sector. Harford compares those failures with successes such as the Spitfire airplane and Google's internet domination, suggesting the solution in the form of a checklist:

- Variation: seek out new ideas and try new things
- Survivability: try new things out at a scale where failure is survivable
- Selection: seek out feedback and learn from your mistakes as you go along

Harford calls this checklist the Palchinsky method, after an early 20th century Russian engineer Peter Palchinsky, who recognised that "real-world problems are more complex than we think", because of they have a human dimension and a local dimension, and are likely to change as circumstances change. I'm sure this will sound familiar to anyone who has ever been involved in a real-world software project. As the key aspects of this solution, Harford calls for adaptive planning and opening up lines of communication from the field to the planning office.

Harford focuses on innovation but also covers topics as diverse as the nature of mistakes, what causes latent errors that are not noticed until the very instant we can least afford them, strategic planning, effectiveness of expertise in today's fast-moving environment and isolating 'skunk-works' groups in large organisations.

This book deserves to be read by all business project and product sponsors, as well as anyone serious about delivering effective products and projects. If your boss needs convincing that lean startup ideas are good, and an explanation why It fits in nicely with the Lean Startup ideas, and explains why delivery plans should be more about options that could be explored instead of scope that is nailed down by committment. Authors strong views on climate change come through in the middle of the book where he argues about possible solutions, which I felt broke the reading flow and felt out of place in the book. However, the rest will surely be an interesting read for most people following my work. You'll be inspired by a ton of stories and great quotes. Here are some of my favourite ones:

- "Return on investment is simply not a useful way of thinking about new ideas and new technologies"
- "Ideal way to discover paths through a shifting landscape ... is to combine baby steps and speculative leaps"
- "For an organisation that needs to quickly correct its own mistakes, the org chart can be the worst possible road map"
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