Tim Harford

Host of the Podcast, Cautionary Tales | Author, "The Data Detective" and "The Undercover Economist" | Columnist, "Financial Times"
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Journalist of the Year by the Wincott Foundation
Best Radio Contributor, 2020 by the The Voice of the Listener & Viewer

Tim Harford, described by the New Statesman as ‘perhaps the best popular economics writer in the world’, is a behavioral economist, BBC radio and TV presenter and award-winning Financial Times columnist. Sometimes called ‘Britain’s Malcolm Gladwell’, Tim offers a distinctive blend of storytelling, humor and intelligence.

He has written eight books, including The Undercover Economist, which has sold nearly 2 million copies in over 30 languages. His BBC Radio 4 series, More or Less, offers a genial smackdown of dubious statistics, while his BBC World Service radio series Fifty Things That Made The Modern Economy was a critical success and iTunes-topper. Tim’s eighth book, The Next Fifty Things That Made The Modern Economy, was published in the UK in May 2020. It accompanies the BBC World Service / Radio 4 series.

Tim's newest book, The Data Detective, uses new research in science and psychology to set out ten strategies for using statistics to erase our biases and replace them with new ideas that use virtues like patience, curiosity, and good sense to better understand ourselves and the world.

In late 2019, Tim’s podcast, Cautionary Tales, broke into the charts with critically-acclaimed stories of fiasco and disaster – and the science behind avoiding catastrophe ourselves. Cautionary Tales has also broken into the top ten on iTunes on both sides of the Atlantic. The mini-season in early 2020 had five million downloads.

His writing has won several prestigious awards, including the Bastiat Prize for economic journalism (2006 and 2016), Science and Data Commentator of the Year (2018), Economics Commentator of the Year (2014), Society for Business Economists writing prize (2014) and the Royal Statistical Society prize for journalism (2015). He was awarded an OBE "for services to improving economic understanding" in the 2019 New Year honors.

Tim has also worked at Shell and the World Bank. He’s a member of Nuffield College, Oxford and the only journalist to be an honorary fellow of the Royal Statistical Society. He has given numerous invited lectures, including at the Royal Economic Society, Google, the Bank of England, PopTech, the Sydney Opera House and three times at TED. His TED talks alone have been viewed over 10 million times.

Credentials

  • Author of the million-selling The Undercover Economist and other bestsellers
  • The Comment Awards Economics Commentator of the Year 2014
  • Multiple award-winner for BBC radio series and Financial Times columns
  • Visiting fellow at Oxford University; former Shell and World Bank economist
  • Speaking includes: TED Global 2011, PopTech 2012, Sydney Opera House 2012, Wired 2012, Royal Economic Society annual public lecture 2013

Topics

Why Slow-Motion Multitasking Works

"To do two things at once is to do neither." That's what we're told, anyway. But nobody seems to have told Albert Einstein, who produced four earth-shaking scientific ideas almost simultaneously in 1905. Tim Harford argues that we are thinking about multitasking all wrong - as a way to hurry up. If instead we do our multitasking in slow motion, we have a recipe for creative breakthroughs. Related TED Talk

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Why Organizations Waste Good Ideas

Blitzkrieg was invented not by the German army, but by the British. Kodak patented the digital camera. The oil companies were ahead of the curve on solar power. Why do companies turn opportunities into liabilities when faced with disruptive technological change? Tim explores the challenges of innovating in the face of new technology.

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What We Get Wrong About Technology

It's not about the printing press - it's about the paper. We've always been dazzled by the latest technological miracle, but Tim argues that we keep making two simple mistakes when we think about how new inventions really transform the world around us. With examples ranging from artificial intelligence and the Gutenberg press to toilet paper and Ikea flat-packs, Harford argues that the most radical changes, good and bad, happen not when we shape new inventions but when new inventions start to shape us.

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What Disasters Teach Us

Tim has written extensively on the psychological and organizational responses to crisis – why we struggle to prepare, how we can adapt and find opportunity in crisis, and why we are surprisingly resilient and altruistic in a crisis.

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The Data Detective

Drawing on his number one business bestseller, Tim argues that statistics are a powerful tool, and that most of us should have more confidence that we can make sense of the numbers. He offers simple rules for thinking clearly about data and the world.

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Making sense of data

Start a revolution with a pie chart. Data visualization is all the rage, but how does it lead us astray, and when does it achieve real change? Ranging over two centuries of graphical highs and lows, Tim provides a visually striking statistical survival guide. Argue with an Algorithm. When Tim explained some of the fallacies behind the big data boom in the Financial Times, it was the newspaper’s most-read article of the year. Tim argues that big data will only fulfill its potential if we can avoid some very old statistical traps. The Data Detective. Drawing on his number one business bestseller, Tim argues that statistics are a powerful tool, and that most of us should have more confidence that we can make sense of the numbers. He offers simple rules for thinking clearly about data and the world. Don’t fool yourself. Wishful thinking is everywhere in business, politics, and life. If we want to stop fooling ourselves, we need to understand. Tim presents an astonishing story of forgery, coupled with the latest research on wishful thinking.

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Innovation, Creativity and Technology

How Frustration Makes Us Creative. Tim’s most popular TED talk is about creativity – and about the unexpected benefits of obstacles, interruptions and distractions. With examples from cognitive psychology, complexity science – and of course rock and roll – Tim delivers a powerful and inspirational talk. Related TED Talk

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Ideas that Matter

We talk a lot about innovation – but what do we really mean? Tim believes we’ve become fixated on a narrow idea of innovation. Ranging across high performance cycling, genetic engineering and military innovation, this is one of Tim’s most popular talks. BBC talk

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Forecasting

How to See into the Future. Two of the greatest economists in history failed to see the Wall Street Crash coming - yet one died a millionaire while the other died poor and alone. Tim explores the latest thinking on how to forecast, and what to do when your forecasts don’t work out.

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Don’t fool yourself

Wishful thinking is everywhere in business, politics, and life. If we want to stop fooling ourselves, we need to understand. Tim presents an astonishing story of forgery, coupled with the latest research on wishful thinking.

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Collaboration

Why Collaboration Is Messy. There are few more important questions that what it takes to make a team work together to solve problems. Tim Harford argues that there's a reason we find this hard: the most effective teams are often the teams with high levels of social friction. Drawing a vast range of surprising research and his usual compelling stories, Tim leads us on a quest to find out how even a team can overcome the most dramatic internal tensions to triumph.

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Argue with an Algorithm

When Tim explained some of the fallacies behind the big data boom in the Financial Times, it was the newspaper’s most-read article of the year. Tim argues that big data will only fulfill its potential if we can avoid some very old statistical traps.

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Adapting

The Art of Adapting. “If at first you don’t succeed, try again.” We’re so often told to learn from our mistakes that it’s become a cliché. But why is it so hard – and how can we do a better job? With stories and ideas from psychology and behavioral economics – as well as aviation, ballet and a TV game show – Tim describes the art of good mistakes.

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Videos

Trial, Error and the God Complex | TEDGlobal
Tim Harford
Preventing financial meltdowns | Pop!Tech
Tim Harford
How to See into the Future | Oxford Union
Tim Harford
How to be a Truth Detective
Tim Harford
How frustration can make us more creative | TED
Tim Harford
A powerful way to unleash your natural creativity | TED
Tim Harford
50 Things That Made the Modern Economy | SMU
Tim Harford

Articles

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In Broken Britain, even the statistics don't work
Financial Times
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Why friends are always right — no matter their views
Financial Times
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Fakes, forgeries and the meaning of meaning in our post-truth era
Financial Times
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Why we can’t quit email, even though we all hate it
Financial Times
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Power Point is widely reviled. How did it triumph?
Financial Times
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Behind the fraud drama rocking academia
Financial Times
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The eternal Google search for truth
Financial Times
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How to be more productive at work
Financial Times
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What neo-Luddites get right — and wrong about Big Tech
Financial Times
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One group of people can't substiute their way out of inflation
Financial Times
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Why is the field of economics still so elitist?
Financial Times
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Does winning the lottery actually ruin your life?
Financial Times
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Why children can be better than adults at spotting misinformation
Financial Times
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How to fix the British economy
Financial Times
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How to enjoy more by doing less
Financial Times
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What economists get wrong about personal finance
Financial Times
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Tim Harford answers your absurd hypothetical questions
Financial Times
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Quitting is underrated
Financial Times

Podcasts

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Behavioral Economics
Big Data & Data Science
Innovation
Behavioral Sciences
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