I have been reading and listening to Tim Harford ever since I discovered him on the BBC and the Financial Times. He also was with the Scenarios team at Shell, so he cannot be a bad bloke! Incidentally he worked with my former boss.
His recent article on pragmatism raises some interesting issues. He says that though we play lip service to pragmatism, in practice we dislike the concept.
“We don’t vote for genuinely pragmatic politicians. We don’t invest in pragmatic businesses. The truth is that making pragmatism work requires effort, embarrassment, and compromise. We don’t seem to be willing to pay what it costs.”
He argues that “pragmatism tends to look hesitant, messy, and prone to error,” because “pragmatist tries to take each situation on its own merits and figure out a sensible way forward.” In comparison the ideologue “looks decisive in comparison.”
In his new book, Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure, he argues that the world’s problems cannot “be tackled with ready-made solutions and expert opinions.” Rather, “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.”
In the below clip, he explains why it is important to learn from failures. He outlines his three principles:
1. Be willing to fail…a lot,
2. Fail on a survivable scale, and
3. Spot a failure and fit it, early.
Perhaps we can solve the world’s challenges, one failure at a time!