The one-sentence summary

The ability to adapt faster and more intelligently is the difference between winning and just coping.


  • The ability to adapt faster and more intelligently is the difference between winning and just coping.
  • The author outlines 17 rules in 3 sections, which are:

1. Recognize the need to adapt (many simply don’t)

  • Play your own game (get better or change the game)
  • All failure is failure to adapt
  • Embrace unacceptable wisdom (face the uncomfortable truth)
  • F*** with the rules (they are there to be broken or changed)
  • Stability is a dangerous illusion (it doesn’t exist)
  • Stupid survives until smart succeeds

2. Understand the adaptation required (you need to know what to do)

  • Learning fast is better than failing fast
  • Plan B matters most (plan A is usually wrong)
  • Free radicals (mavericks need to be allowed to flourish)
  • Think better together (collective action works best)
  • Get a kick-ass partner (people need support to adapt)

3. Do what is necessary to adapt (you can know what’s needed but still not do it)

  • Never grow up (mature companies are most likely to atrophy)
  • Hierarchy is fossil fuel (usually it stifles the ability to adapt)
  • Keep the ball (adaptations come from outside the game – a bit obscure this one)
  • Swerve and swarm (from flash mobbing – vary things and gang together)
  • Get your ambition on (you need an ambitious aim)
  • Always the beginning (the process never ends)


  • The brain can adapt, and it’s called neural plasticity. This means you are not set in your ways, and can retrain parts of the brain to do entirely new things.
  • Convergents look for one answer to any problem. They tend to generate previously known or predetermined responses – accurate, but expected.
  • Divergents create as many answers to a problem as possible. They are radicals who can see new possibilities. Greater diversity usually arises.
  • Peter Hedstrom’s models show that the majority doesn’t need to be convinced to generate action. In a typical group of 100 (divided into gangs of 10), if six in the top team decide on something, the other 4 will probably follow. If the top team then convinces 6 other people in 5 other groups, the seeming ‘majority’ is achieved with only 36 people agreeing. Brilliant!


  • An obsession with winning pervades much business writing, and this book is no exception.