Tim Harford


Author of the million-selling "The Undercover Economist" and other bestsellers


Tim Harford, described by the New Statesman as ‘perhaps the best popular economics writer in the world’, is a behavioural 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, humour and intelligence.


Tim Harford is the host of the BBC World Service podcast series, 50 Thinks 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 Harford has written six books, the most successful of which, The Undercover Economist, has sold 1.5 million copies in over 30 languages around the world. Hartford’s most recent 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 recent TED Talk, How frustration can can make us more creative. Tim is about to publish a book on the popular podcast series titled Fifty Inventions That Shaped the Modern Economy (Little, Brown July 2017).

Harford’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.

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. From this starting point, Tim explores the latest thinking on how to forecast, and what to do when your forecasts don’t work out.

The Art of Good Misstakes.

“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 behavioural economics – as well as aviation, ballet and a TV game show – Tim describes the art of good mistakes.

Preventing Financial Meltdowns.

Have we learned the right lessons from the financial crisis? Tim isn’t so sure. He argues that there is a group of people who’ve been focusing on what really matters, and they aren’t the economists, bankers and lawyers we usually turn to – but experts in nuclear, industrial and aviation safety. A nuclear meltdown and a financial meltdown have much more in common than we realise.

Ideas that Matter.

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

How to Run – or Ruin – An Economy.

The “Indiana Jones of Economics”, Bill Phillips, was an inventor, an adventurer and a hero – as well as being a truly great economist. In a yarn well suited to an after-dinner format, Tim uses the life of Bill Phillips to ask what modern economists can learn from their larger-than-life predecessors.

Misinformation is beautiful.

Data visualisation is all the rage, but with examples ranging from Florence Nightingale to the latest YouTube infographic hits, Tim shows that we’re being fooled by sketchy statistics dressed up beautifully. A humorous and visually striking statistical survival guide.

Big Data: Are we making a big mistake?

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. From Google Flu Trends to retail targeting algorithms, Tim argues that big data will only fulfil its potential if we can avoid some very old statistical traps.

The Magic of Mess.

Tim’s latest 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.

How Obstacles Make Us More Creative

Challenges and problems can derail your creative process ... or they can make you more creative than ever. With examples ranging from jazz to commuting, and drawing on research from cognitive psychology and computer science, Tim Harford may just convince you of the advantages of having to work with a little mess.

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Tim Harford