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October 13, 2014
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October 27, 2014

Adapt - book cover

By Fareeha Qayoom


Adapt - book cover

Adapt – book cover

Tim Harford is not a new author for me – I have read his “Undercover Economist” cover to cover and am planning to finish reading ‘The Logic of Life’ sometime in the near future. In fact, I bought ‘adapt’ and ‘the Logic of Life’ because I liked what he had to say in the ‘Undercover Economist.’

He has interesting turn of phrase and unique way of looking at things. In this highly readable book, he doesn’t disappoint either – he picks examples from as diverse backgrounds as military (Iraq war), to retail (Target Stores) to banking (Lehman Brothers) to Insurance (AIG) to dominos and off shore drilling and oil spills to nuclear reactor accidents to coffee to Google to come up with three universal principles that ensure survival, evolution and success of your business and of you as an individual:

  1. Try new things (expect failure)
  2. Make failure survivable (start small)
  3. Learn from your mistakes

He insists that innovation must happen if progress is to be made. As an entrepreneur, you need to start small, in many directions at once all at the same time, let your ideas work in isolation (giving your ideas room to breathe), while you keep the scale small and costs minimal, limit bureaucracy, (keep the communications simple, two way, easy to understand and transparent), have contingency plans (because safety systems often fail, mistakes happen, whistle blowers should be listened to so problems are fixed quickly), create an open culture, “regular culture and priorities and politics of old corporation do not apply,” he asserts.

“Adapting is not necessarily something we do. It may well be something that is done to us,” he insists in the book.

In conclusion he asserts, “The ability to adapt requires this sense of security, an inner confidence that the cost of failure is the cost we will be able to bear. Sometimes that takes real courage; at other times all that is needed is the happy self-delusion of a lost three year old. Whatever its source, we need that willingness to risk failure. Without it, we will never truly succeed.”

Bottom line, an interesting take on the science of success and a good read. It is short, to the point, and doesn’t labor the point. You can finish it in one sitting or over a weekend.


Adapt (Abacus 2010 edition) 310 pages, available at Readings for PKR 645- Lahore, Pakistan.


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Fareeha Qayoom
Fareeha Qayoom
Publisher and editor-in-chief of and former print editions of The Knit-Xtyle Fashion Review (tkfr), a trade newsletter for the textile and apparel industry of Pakistan. In short, Publisher, editor, and a blogger. In addition, she has served as Managing Editor of MIT Technology Review Pakistan, print and web editions (2015-16). Total of 7 editions were published under her leadership by ITU, Punjab's first public technology university under the license of MIT Technology Review (USA). She has also managed Value Mag in the same capacity, a real estate and lifestyle magazine for Value TV - 2008-9. Published freelancer for The News on Sunday 1994-96. Fareeha has over 21 years of solid management experience – of managing brands (like Harley Davidson, Munsingwear, Chaps, Chaps Ralph Lauren etc.,), Retailers (like Target, Mervyns, Kohl's, Marks and Spencer etc.,), customers (VPs, Product Managers, Unit Managers, and Buyers), and products (apparel - woven, knits, men's, women's, children's, Print and online publishing units), projects, teams, and processes, information, content, and data, staff, vendors, and time. Versatile and adaptable with international exposure, communication and language skills (oral and written), and a consistent track record of achieving company targets and objectives, plus a MA in Political Science from Punjab University, a MSc in Economics from La Salle University, Louisiana, USA, and a BA in Economics from Kinnaird College for Women.


  1. More reading?

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  2. another favorite author who talks about the same stuff – Scott Adams…

    Scott Adams’ Secret of Success: Failure
    What’s the best way to climb to the top? Be a failure.

    By Scott Adams

    If you’re already as successful as you want to be, both personally and professionally, congratulations! Here’s the not-so-good news: All you are likely to get from this article is a semi-entertaining tale about a guy who failed his way to success. But you might also notice some familiar patterns in my story that will give you confirmation (or confirmation bias) that your own success wasn’t entirely luck.

    If you’re just starting your journey toward success—however you define it—or you’re wondering what you’ve been doing wrong until now, you might find some novel ideas here. Maybe the combination of what you know plus what I think I know will be enough to keep you out of the wood chipper.

    Let me start with some tips on what not to do. Beware of advice about successful people and their methods. For starters, no two situations are alike. Your dreams of creating a dry-cleaning empire won’t be helped by knowing that Thomas Edison liked to take naps. Secondly, biographers never have access to the internal thoughts of successful people. If a biographer says Henry Ford invented the assembly line to impress women, that’s probably a guess.

    But the most dangerous case of all is when successful people directly give advice. For example, you often hear them say that you should “follow your passion.” That sounds perfectly reasonable the first time you hear it. Passion will presumably give you high energy, high resistance to rejection and high determination. Passionate people are more persuasive, too. Those are all good things, right?

    Here’s the counterargument: When I was a commercial loan officer for a large bank, my boss taught us that you should never make a loan to someone who is following his passion. For example, you don’t want to give money to a sports enthusiast who is starting a sports store to pursue his passion for all things sporty. That guy is a bad bet, passion and all. He’s in business for the wrong reason.

    My boss, who had been a commercial lender for over 30 years, said that the best loan customer is someone who has no passion whatsoever, just a desire to work hard at something that looks good on a spreadsheet. Maybe the loan customer wants to start a dry-cleaning store or invest in a fast-food franchise—boring stuff. That’s the person you bet on. You want the grinder, not the guy who loves his job.

    For most people, it’s easy to be passionate about things that are working out, and that distorts our impression of the importance of passion. I’ve been involved in several dozen business ventures over the course of my life, and each one made me excited at the start. You might even call it passion.

    The ones that didn’t work out—and that would be most of them—slowly drained my passion as they failed. The few that worked became more exciting as they succeeded. For example, when I invested in a restaurant with an operating partner, my passion was sky high. And on day one, when there was a line of customers down the block, I was even more passionate. In later years, as the business got pummeled, my passion evolved into frustration and annoyance.

    On the other hand, Dilbert started out as just one of many get-rich schemes I was willing to try. When it started to look as if it might be a success, my passion for cartooning increased because I realized it could be my golden ticket. In hindsight, it looks as if the projects that I was most passionate about were also the ones that worked. But objectively, my passion level moved with my success. Success caused passion more than passion caused success.

    So forget about passion. And while you’re at it, forget about goals, too.

    Just after college, I took my first airplane trip, destination California, in search of a job. I was seated next to a businessman who was probably in his early 60s. I suppose I looked like an odd duck with my serious demeanor, bad haircut and cheap suit, clearly out of my element. I asked what he did for a living, and he told me he was the CEO of a company that made screws. He offered me some career advice. He said that every time he got a new job, he immediately started looking for a better one. For him, job seeking was not something one did when necessary. It was a continuing process.

    This makes perfect sense if you do the math. Chances are that the best job for you won’t become available at precisely the time you declare yourself ready. Your best bet, he explained, was to always be looking for a better deal. The better deal has its own schedule. I believe the way he explained it is that your job is not your job; your job is to find a better job.

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