Why Most Things Fail: Evolution, Extinction and Economics

Why Most Things Fail Evolution Extinction and Economics With the same originality and astuteness that marked his widely praised Butterfly Economics Paul Ormerod now examines the Iron Law of Failure as it applies to business and government and explains wha

  • Title: Why Most Things Fail: Evolution, Extinction and Economics
  • Author: Paul Ormerod
  • ISBN: 9780571266142
  • Page: 430
  • Format: ebook
  • With the same originality and astuteness that marked his widely praised Butterfly Economics, Paul Ormerod now examines the Iron Law of Failure as it applies to business and government and explains what can be done about it Failure is all around us, asserts Ormerod For every General Electric still going strong after than one hundred years there are dozens of businWith the same originality and astuteness that marked his widely praised Butterfly Economics, Paul Ormerod now examines the Iron Law of Failure as it applies to business and government and explains what can be done about it Failure is all around us, asserts Ormerod For every General Electric still going strong after than one hundred years there are dozens of businesses like Central Leather, which was one of the world s largest companies in 1912 but was liquidated in 1952 Ormerod debunks conventional economic theory that the world economy ticks along in perfect equilibrium according to the best laid plans of business and government and delves into the reasons for the failure of brands, entire companies, and public policies Inspired by recent advances in evolutionary theory and biology, Ormerod illuminates the ways in which companies and policy setting sectors of government behave much like living organisms unless they evolve, they die But he also makes clear how desirable social and economic outcomes may be achieved when individuals, companies and governments adapt in response to the actual behavior and requirements of their customers and constituents.Why Most Things Fail is a fascinating and provocative study of a truth all too seldom acknowledged.

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    One thought on “Why Most Things Fail: Evolution, Extinction and Economics”

    1. Published ten years ago (2006), many of the sceptical views of Paul Ormerod about the rationalism claimed for twentieth century economics and the importance of understanding how complexity limits strategy are now mainstream - thanks, in part, to the 2008 Crash.This book is well within the radical free market tradition of Hayek to which is added what might be considered a conservative and even pessimistic respect for the fact that millions of minds in real time with imperfect knowledge cannot kno [...]

    2. I enjoyed this book largely because it is anathema to Freakanomics.Freakanomics was a very popular book with a very dumb title that applied economic theory to parts of life that we generally don't associate with economics. The idea was that economic theory can teach us about everything.This book, by contrast, submits that economic theory is incapable of telling us much about anything at all, even the things we expect it to, such as how prices are set and why businesses fail.We need to critically [...]

    3. I read this book almost five years ago but I think the author's observations and thesis is more relevant today. In some sense, this book and Fooled by Randomness are companion pieces. However, Omerod lacks the arrogance of Taleb. In looking through the other reviews, I can see when certain readers are taken aback by the thought that randomness and chance play such centrals roles in processes where we historically projected the illusion of human control.

    4. I think this is an important book, and I also think its message might be difficult for some people to reconcile their world view with. Ormerod sets his stall out to show that economists have presumed that the economy (and lots of other systems we think of all day every day) actually is a steady state, that markets exist as a relationship between buyers and sellers, with supply and demand following perfect curves that come from perfect knowledge.Of course, as he points out, this is nonsense. Mark [...]

    5. I loved the new insights into failure through combining history, science, and economics into an interesting read.

    6. Subtitle: Evolution, Extinction, and Economics. The cover of my copy of this book shows the dodo bird, the betamaxx, a car which I'm going to guess is the Edsel, and the Titanic. As you can tell from this, Paul Ormerod is not content to examine failure in just one field. Businesses and species, technologies and ecosystems are all examined. We discover that the term "half-life" can be usefully deployed when looking at members of the Largest 100 Companies in the United States list, and also to spe [...]

    7. This is a book by an academic economist about why economists have it all wrong. Although the author’s brief bio says that he’s had a successful career outside academia in the world of business, nothing much in his writing shows signs of that. This is a highly theoretical work, and while it does draw on many examples from every conceivable field from Shakespeare's plays to the early years of the US auto industry, it’s not an in-the-trenches kind of work.• Things fail because intent and ou [...]

    8. A fascinating book that discusses the similarity in biological and commercial extinction. Frankly, much of the economic data is beyond my comprehension, however, that doesn't mean that this book is only for economists, most of it can be understood by the generally educated public. Some of the important points about economics which I learned about from this book are that: people aren't always rational decision makers (an assumption in much economic theory) and they rarely have all the information [...]

    9. How evolution explains business failuresThis 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 [...]

    10. Interesting enough read, over my head though.Walked away with a vague sense of* need to pay attention to unintended consequences, tendency for policies and plans (eg. to achieve desegregation) to fail* complex behaviours, unpredictability emerging even in simple systems* something about general equilibrium theory being wrong* parallel between biology and economics (?)* rticularly striking similarity between distribution of extinction sizes/frequencies in species and firms* comparison between exo [...]

    11. Some great reasons why predicting the future is incredible difficult. All sorts of reasons why we get things wrong on both the micro and macro scale.The basic thrust was that even minor irregularities can occasionally have very big consequences that you wouldn't have predicted because everything's so darn complex.Towards the end the book pushed hard his own work and theories around the link with evolution - e.g. the pattern of extinction of firms in the US mirrors almost exactly the pattern of e [...]

    12. For me, the only thing of value in the book was in two lines in the introduction: "The book's content is firmly grounded in reality. Too much work in the social sciences, whether it is the dense mathematics of much of economics, or the tortuous prose of a great deal of sociology, is purely theoretical ""rtuous prose" Spot on and so appropriate. The less precise or rigorous the proposition, the more cryptic the language used to describe it. Mr. Ormerod was blind to his own tortuous prose. And the [...]

    13. The hardback copy of this I read had the subtitle "Evolution, Extinction and Economics" but it looks like the paperback got the subtitle swizzled to "d how to avoid it". I probably wouldn't have picked it up with the latter title. I don't think either title is that descriptive though - it doesn't have that much to do with extinction or evolution and didn't really seem to explain that much about how to avoid failure.I will confess I was skim reading more the further I got into the book though so [...]

    14. a nihilistic book written by economist - 250 pages of argument that we will most likely fail anyway! Depressing indeed.But Ormerod makes a compelling point. The thought that men have complete control, or mere knowledge, of all the variables is complete illusion. There is always unknown variable, unknown factor, or the very least, unknown relationship between the known variables. All these will play a role in ruining your plan.The point is exciting, but the writing style is rather dry and a bit d [...]

    15. Paul Ormerod has written a wonderful book in plain English that explains failure in complicated systems in as simple a manner as possible. Examining the extinctions of species and corporations, Ormerod postulates that understanding how one fails will illuminate how the other fails. To that end he examines failure from an interdisciplinary approach that lacks jargon but is full of insight. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wishes to understand failure in a more robust way.

    16. a thoughtful and calm extended essay covering much of the same ground as the black swan with a lot more humility. builds slowly from a standard criticism of mainstream economics into a fascinating consideration of advanced evolutionary theory and the similarity between biological and economic systems. ends with a laudable call for epistemic humility. will be best appreciated by those with at least some understanding of economics and statistics.

    17. Cool book. Explores a lot of unconventional ideas about economics, especially the parallels between business failure and biological failure (i.e. extinction). A little mathy, but not so much that I needed a pen & paper while I was reading. A lot of reviews are saying that it's either not as dramatic a break with economic tradition as it's made out to be, but I only took one semester each of macroeconomics and micro, so it's new to me.

    18. Drawing on an analogy with extinctions in biology, Ormerod comes up with a conceptually simple model of interactions in which most of the "agents" fail following the same power law pattern observed for the failure of business firms. Somewhat disturbingly, this failure pattern is not consistent with much learning by the "agents".

    19. This author seems to go around and around without getting to any real substance or answers. It did change my perception on how easily or often the very large companies like the ones in the Dow 30 can go under or disappear. Regardless of how talented the managers or employees are, companies can still fail for one reason or another. Overall this book was disappointing.

    20. Less than spectacular discussion about the non-linearity of processes and the limits of knowledge. Taleb blows through this entire book in about 6 pages without needing to include borderline-incomprehensible scatter plots. However, Ormerod's appeal for humility and attempt to blend evolutionary Darwinism and corporate Darwinism, especially regarding mass extinctions, is useful.

    21. A mostly well paced read through a fairly comprehensive debunking of some pretty basic economic tenets. Very few politicians seem to have taken the blindest bit of notice though. The madness continues unabated

    22. a nice book but the whole book reolves about the same theme which makes it boring soemtimes but the examples quoted and the mathematical equations and probability makes it pretty clear what we call success and what is failure, a book dedicated to explain what failure actually is

    23. A slow read. However, right after finishing this I started my required school reading and similar concepts about uncertainty and risk were reiterated. Interesting ideas, but not the best articulation.

    24. Paul Ormerod is one of the most lucid living economists; I find his broad views on economics genetics and evolution to be most interesting.

    25. This is a well-written introductory piece. I found the content to be a little bit on the easy side, but then I've got four years of economics study behind me.

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