Book in brief: What Works by Hamish McRae

What Works

Published by HarperPress, £12.99

In writing stories about 20 successful ideas – from as divergent sources as Harvard University, the Shanghai municipal government, mobile phone use in Africa, the German Mittelstand and the Edinburgh Festival – ten common factors and lessons emerged:


  • Optimism, balanced by realism: pessimism paralyses.
  • Excellence, tempered by decency: if you neglect your wider responsibilities, you’re liable to end up in trouble when you meet headwinds.
  • Community works, if it is allowed to: look at things from the ground level up and mobilise community.
  • Government works, too: compare like with like.
  • Become a true magnet for talent: put out the welcome mat.
  • Be honest about failure: keep learning, keep making mistakes.
  • The need for humility: be as sensitive to success as you are to failure.
  • Be nimble: make sure you are quick to adapt.
  • Listen to the market: remember, it’s about more than money.
  • Have a sense of mission: keep the long game in view.


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