Sunday, February 28, 2016

Smarter Faster Better

Title:  Smarter, Faster, Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business
Author:  Charles Duhigg
Publication Information:  Random House. 2016. 400 pages.
ISBN:  081299339X / 978-0812993394

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "My introduction to the science of productive began in the summer of 2011, when I asked a friend of a friend for a favor."

Favorite Quote:  "Productivity isn't about working more or sweating harder ... Rather, productivity is about making certain choices in certain ways."

The title of this book reminds me of the Olympic motto - three Latin words that translate to Faster - Higher - Stronger. I do not know if that connection is behind the naming of the book, but with the three words, the image of a person running towards a goal, and the intent of helping people improve performance, the connection does occur to me.

I am not quite sure what to say about this book. I enjoy reading it. I enjoy the variety of the case studies presented. Yet, at the end of it, I am not quite sure what I learn from it. This book address a topic often addressed - productivity - but does so in with broad philosophical brush.

I can best explain with a comparison that takes a completely different approach to the topic. In the world of self improvement literature, it becomes a question of what works better for you.

David Allen's book Getting Things Done:  The Art of Stress-Free Productivity is by title and stated intent about the same topic - productivity. That book lays out flowcharts, tools, and very specific and concrete processes about how to manage workload and to accomplish goals in a productive manner.

This book, in comparison, lays out "the eight ideas that seem most important in expanding productivity": motivation, teams, focus, goal setting, managing other, decision making, innovation, and absorbing data.  An introduction provides a little background on how the book came to be and an appendix applies the eight ideas to the author's process of writing the book itself. In between, eight chapters address each idea in turn.

Each chapter is more a compilation of case studies that illustrate the idea than a cohesive piece on what that idea entails. For example, the chapter on absorbing data uses case studies based on Cincinnati Public Schools, Chase Manhattan Bank, and a high school freshman by the name of Delia Morris. The case studies are quick and easy to read; the author is very much a storyteller in this regard.

Some are more successful than others in illustrating the ideas and adding to the value of the book. No surprises in finding case studies from Google and Disney in a book about productivity and creativity. These organizations are cited in almost every recent book on the topic. Thus, while interesting to read again, they don't bring new information. Others such as the Cincinnati schools, the crash of airline jet, and the FBI investigation of a kidnapping are new to me, and, as such, make the book stand out from the others already written on the topic.

The case studies are presented in an intermingled fashion - pieces of one, sections of another, then perhaps back to the first, and so on. Not all the chapters then pull the ideas into a cohesive statement of ideology, but rather leave the reader with the lessons of the case study itself. The chapters themselves seems to stand independently rather than as pieces of the productivity puzzle. As such, the book is somewhat like reading a collection of well written, well told, and easily read stories rather than a cohesive powerful message on productivity.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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