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Tim Harford

speaker location icon London, UK

The Financial Times' best selling 'Undercover Economist' and BBC broadcaster

One of the most popular TED business speakers of all time

Witty and Insightful understanding of how we work and live

‘Harford’s richness of detail bespeaks skill both as an economic analyst and as a popular commentator.”
Times Literary Supplement

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

He is the host of the BBC World Service podcast series, 50 Things That Made the Modern Economy. It was rated #1 on iTunes in the UK. 50 Things presents brief stories of the ideas and inventions all around us – and the way they’ve shaped how we live – from the gramophone to the iPhone to Ikea’s “Billy Bookcase”. Tim is also host of the podcast More or Less. Both podcasts we listed as the top 30 podcasts around the world by the Times of London. His BBC Radio 4 series, More or Less, offers a genial smackdown of dubious statistics. It was commended by the Royal Statistical Society five years running for excellence in journalism.

Tim has written seven books, including a newly published book based on the popular podcast series titled Fifty Things That Shaped the Modern Economy. His most successful book, The Undercover Economist, has sold 1.5 million copies in over 30 languages around the world. Tim’s book, Messy: How to be Creative and Resilient in a Tidy-minded World, argues that we underrate improvisation, randomness, and vagueness — and overrate the scripted, the controlled and the quantified. If we embraced a little more mess we’d get more done, and be more creative and resilient. The book has many ideas from his 2016 TED Talk, How frustration can can make us more creative.

Tim’s writing has won several prestigious awards, including the Bastiat Prize for Economic Journalism (2007), Economics Commentator of the Year (2014), Society for Business Economists writing prize (2014) and the Royal Statistical Society prize for journalism (2015).

Tim has also worked at Shell and the World Bank, and is a visiting fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford. He has given numerous invited lectures, including at the Royal Economic Society, Google, the Bank of England, PopTech, the Sydney Opera House and (twice) at TED.

Current Topics and Talks

  • The Art of Adapting
  • How Obstacles Make Us More Creative
  • How Not to Spread The Misinformation Virus
    How should we think about the claims buzzing about us in the media and social media? What are we too quick to believe? What are we too quick to doubt? Tim Harford – FT columnist and the presenter of BBC Radio 4’s More or Less – looks at the latest attempts at public information, misinformation and deliberate disinformation. What explains why an idea spreads? How can we be wiser about our own part in that? And how can we tell the difference between truth and nonsense, even when we lack the relevant technical knowledge to do so?
  • The Ostrich Effect. Why do we underprepare for predictable disasters? The pandemic is just the latest example, from the deadly hijackings of 9/11 to Hurricane Katrina, of a clear risk, flagged up repeatedly, yet ignored. I include myself: I had more notice than most about this pandemic, thanks to me reporting. Yet I was sluggish to put my understanding into action. Why do we fail to prepare, as individuals and as organisations? What are the psychological obstacles, and is there a way to do better?
  • Hope in the darkness.   Experts call it ‘the disaster myth’: the idea that in a crisis, humanity falls apart and the mob rules. This primal fear comes up again and again – and yet while the media focus on a few antisocial idiots, most people are decent, almost heroic, in a crisis. Tim look some amazing studies – and inspiring case histories – of people pulling together when the going gets tough.


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