Tuesday, June 7, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg

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ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • From the author of The Power of Habit comes a fascinating book that explores the science of productivity, and why managing how you think is more important than what you think—with an appendix of real-world lessons to apply to your life.

At the core of Smarter Faster Better are eight key productivity concepts—from motivation and goal setting to focus and decision making—that explain why some people and companies get so much done. Drawing on the latest findings in neuroscience, psychology, and behavioral economics—as well as the experiences of CEOs, educational reformers, four-star generals, FBI agents, airplane pilots, and Broadway songwriters—this painstakingly researched book explains that the most productive people, companies, and organizations don’t merely act differently.

They view the world, and their choices, in profoundly different ways.

A young woman drops out of a PhD program and starts playing poker. By training herself to envision contradictory futures, she learns to anticipate her opponents’ missteps—and becomes one of the most successful players in the world.

A group of data scientists at Google embark on a four-year study of how the best teams function, and find that how a group interacts is more important than who is in the group—a principle, it turns out, that also helps explain why Saturday Night Live became a hit.

A Marine Corps general, faced with low morale among recruits, reimagines boot camp—and discovers that instilling a “bias toward action” can turn even the most directionless teenagers into self-motivating achievers.

The filmmakers behind Disney’s Frozen are nearly out of time and on the brink of catastrophe—until they shake up their team in just the right way, spurring a creative breakthrough that leads to one of the highest-grossing movies of all time.

What do these people have in common?

They know that productivity relies on making certain choices. The way we frame our daily decisions; the big ambitions we embrace and the easy goals we ignore; the cultures we establish as leaders to drive innovation; the way we interact with data: These are the things that separate the merely busy from the genuinely productive.

In The Power of Habit, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Charles Duhigg explained why we do what we do. In Smarter Faster Better, he applies the same relentless curiosity, deep reporting, and rich storytelling to explain how we can improve at the things we do. It’s a groundbreaking exploration of the science of productivity, one that can help anyone learn to succeed with less stress and struggle, and to get more done without sacrificing what we care about most—to become smarter, faster, and better at everything we do.

Praise for Smarter Faster Better

“A pleasure to read . . . Duhigg’s skill as a storyteller makes his book so engaging to read.”—The New York Times Book Review

“Not only will Smarter Faster Better make you more efficient if you heed its tips, it will also save you the effort of reading many productivity books dedicated to the ideas inside.”—Bloomberg Businessweek

“Duhigg pairs relatable anecdotes with the research behind why some people and businesses are not as efficient as others.”—Chicago Tribune

“The book covers a lot of ground through meticulous reporting and deft analysis, presenting a wide range of case studies . . . with insights that apply to the rest of us.”—The Wall Street Journal

MY REVIEW:

I read and reviewed The Power of Habit last year.  I thoroughly enjoyed that book.  It made me want to read anything and everything by Charles Duhigg.

Smarter Faster Better is similar to The Power of Habit in that it is also jam-packed with fascinating stories and information. Both are books you could probably read over and over again and get something out of them every time.  Smarter Faster Better, though, is different in that it's not centered around one thing (i.e. "habits"). Instead it's about a LOT of different things -- the names of the eight chapter give you an idea of the overview: Motivation, Teams, Focus, Goal Setting, Managing Others, Decision Making, Innovation and Absorbing Data.  All of these topics are related to being "smarter, faster and better" in the workplace.

Some of the more powerful messages for me were:
  • The importance of psychological safety discussed in chapter 2: "Teams succeed when everyone feels like they can speak up and when members show they are sensitive to how one another feels."
  • The five different types of corporate culture described in the chapter 5: "Hands down, a commitment culture outperformed every other type of management style in almost every meaningful way."
  • The paralyzing effect of information blindness which is "our mind's tendency to stop absorbing data when there's too much to take in." Our brains get overloaded when faced with too much data (or too many choices) and it functions best when we break things down to two or three options.
I highly recommend this book to anyone in a position of management or leadership.