Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg

The Big Idea: Productivity can be learned.

Chapter 1: Motivation

  • To feel motivated, people must feel like they are in control.
  • Leadership is learned.
  • Don’t praise people for intelligence; praise them for effort.
  • A bias towards action keeps people motivated.
  • Start with why; why are you doing what you’re doing?
  • Examples: Marine boot camp, renegade nursing home patients.

Chapter 2: Teams

  • Group norms (culture) matter more than anything.
  • People need to feel safe to make and report mistakes, to experiment.
  • Friends working together works because they feel safe.
  • Teams need to believe their work is important.
  • Teams need to believe their work is personally meaningful.
  • Teams need clear goals and defined roles.
  • Team members need to know they can depend on one another.
  • Teams need psychological safety.
  • Examples: Google People Analytics, hospitals, Saturday Night Live.

Chapter 3: Focus

  • Cognitive tunneling is when brains are forced to transition abruptly from relaxed automation to panicked attention.
  • People who remain calm and show good judgment in stressful situations tend to create mental models and engage in constant forecasting.  They visualize scenarios.
  • Productive people engage in fewer projects, challenge themselves constantly, and love to forecast future scenarios.
  • Try to anticipate what’s next through scenario planning (Southwest Airlines book).
  • Examples: Air France flight 447

Chapter 4: Goal Setting

  • Having SMART goals will help you to continuously improve.
  • However, only having audacious, inspirational stretch goals will lead to the big leaps forward. Stretch goals force you to challenge assumptions and try completely new approaches.
  • Examples: Yom Kippur War, Toyota high-speed rail.

Chapter 5: Managing Others

  • It’s the culture that makes Toyota successful.
  • “Star-based” startups had the most home runs but also the most failures.  “Culture-based” startups had the highest probability of survival and success.
  • Lean management requires handing decision-making control to the front line worker. This requires a culture of trust.
  • Example: Frank Janssen kidnapping, Toyota Production System.

Chapter 6: Decision Making

  • Learn to be comfortable with uncertainty.
  • Study statistics for better decision-making.
  • Examples: poker professional Annie Duke.

Chapter 7: Innovation

  • Most innovation is a new application of an old idea.
  • “Creativity is just connecting things.” — Steve Jobs
  • Mild disturbances to a team or situation can yield innovation.
  • Sometimes, stress and pressure can yield innovation.
  • Examples: Disney’s Frozen, Westside Story.

Chapter 8: Absorbing Data

  • Too much data results in information blindness and the inability to make good decisions.
  • Data is vital, but people must also be trained in the ability to use the data.
  • Being forced to do think critically about the data (take careful notes, teach it to someone, apply it) is much more important than having access to the data.
  • Examples: Data in Cincinnati public schools, typed notes vs hand-written notes.

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