By Janine Vanderburg, President/CEO, Joining Vision and Action
Smarter Faster Better Book Review
When I saw the book Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business, I knew that I was going to buy it. The fact that Charles Duhigg, author of one of my favorite books, Power of Habit, wrote it was a plus.
And as leaders of organizations involved in social change, who hasn’t felt that if we just had two more hours in the day, we could get more done and have more impact?
This is NOT that kind of book. If you’re looking for quick tips on being more productive (block time, don’t answer emails until 11:30 a.m., the best way to manage to-do lists), you won’t find them in this 380-page book.
What you will find: Eight ideas, called “principles”, covered in chapters that combine the latest research in social psychology and behavioral economics with compelling stories and case studies that will help you and your teams become more effective and productive in your choices. The ideas cover:
- Motivation—how to increase motivation?
- Teams—what makes teams effective?
- Focus—how do we focus?
- Goal setting—what are the right ways to set goals that we’ll accomplish?
- Managing others—how do you manage anyway?
- Decision making—what can you do to increase the likelihood of making good decisions?
- Innovation—what is the truth about how innovation occurs?
- Absorbing data—how can you really learn from all the data that is thrown in your direction?
Each has great lessons and takeaways for your work in community and social change, especially working across organizations and systems. How do you motivate people in disparate groups to put aside personal agendas to toward a powerful goal? What can you do to increase the likelihood of making a right decision about the future of your organization?
It is not a fast read, but an important one. I’m not sure that employing these ideas will make you faster; they will make you more thoughtful—smarter and better.
My best advice for using this book comes from a quote in the final chapter on absorbing data:
“When we encounter new information and want to learn from it, we should force ourselves to do something with the data.”
(It’s why people retain more from a lecture when they handwrite notes than when they use a laptop).
So grab yourself a journal, and don’t plan to read Smarter Faster Better in a day. Set aside a time block once a week to read a chapter, and reflect: How can I apply these lessons in my work? If you have a leadership team, is a great exercise to do together. Within two months, you’ll all be smarter and better for it.