Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Adapt (book review)

Tim Harford has written a number of excellent, easy read, economics books; possibly the most famous being The Undercover Economist.  I have a preference to Harford's style than the Freakonomics school.  It was against that background I ordered Adapt. I wouldn't describe it as an economics book, but I was not disappointed and would certainly recommend it. I would catalogue the book under 'business improvement philosophy' - is there such a library section?

I don't plan to provide a summary of the book as the sub-title provides as reasonable enough steer. However, an alternative precis could well be the misquote of Mao Zedong's, 'Let a thousand flowers bloom'. 

The key message to me is the need to encourage risk managed experimentation. I would like to see that practiced more within the procurement world. Accept that some experiments just won't work.  But some experiments will work and some will even delivery beyond our wildest expectations.  Equally some experiments may not deliver in the way we expected but may nevertheless yield desirable outcomes.  Nevertheless failure provides useful lessons to be learned. That's how we can deliver stepped change in cost reduction, quality improvement and social value. That's how we can deliver innovation in procurement. It's also how we can see improvement in strategic commissioning and public services delivery. The trick is to think of managed risk and the use of 'decoupling'.

A review isn't the place for more of Harford"s ideas, suffice to say that I think if you want to make improvements, you could do a lot worse than dip into your pocket and get a copy.

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