Smarter Faster Better The secrets of being productive
“Productive people and companies force themselves to make choices most other people are content to ignore. Productivity emerges when people push themselves to think differently.”Charles Duhigg
Could you be more productive?
If the Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and best-selling author Charles Duhigg’s research is to be believed, the answer has to be an overwhelming yes. We have all procrastinated over important tasks that need to be completed but have lacked the motivation to even begin.
Duhigg uses scientific research, interviews with army leaders, companies and educationists, as well as his own experience, to highlight what can go wrong when our thinking and actions are not productive. From the pilots who crashed an aeroplane because they could not believe what the autopilot information was telling them and had no mental model to follow when things went wrong, to the marine corps general who overcomes low morale among directionless recruits by instilling a bias toward action, there is something valuable for us all to learn.
Duhigg found that psychological safety is critical to how productive teams can be. Extensive research from leading universities and data scientists at Google has shown that how a group interacts is more important than who is in the group. There is a universality to how good teams succeed – everyone on the team needs to feel they have a voice. Google now has checklists for managers to remind them what principles are the most important. For example, leaders should: demonstrate they are listening by summarising what people have said; admit what they don’t know; encourage people who are upset to express their frustrations; call out inter-group conflicts and resolve them through open discussion. Leaders should not; interrupt teammates during conversations because that will establish an interrupting norm; nor end a meeting until all team members have spoken at least once.
Duhigg offers eight core ideas to become smarter, faster and better:
- To generate motivation: Make a choice that puts you in control. Figure out how the task is connected to something you care about and set a meaningful goal – jot down why it matters to you on the top of a long report you need to read
- To set goals: Choose a stretch goal – an ambition that reflects your biggest aspirations, and then break it into sub goals with SMART objectives
- To stay focused: Envisage what will happen – what might go wrong and how will you pre-empt that? Visualise (as do all great sportsmen) or tell yourself a story about what you expect to occur
- To make better decisions: Think through potential futures. For example, tell others that you will limit the time you will spend on a new project if you want to just see what might happen and learn something new – you don’t need to commit to investing a lot of time in something that might not work
- To make teams more effective: Manage the how not the who of teams. Think about how you encourage equality in speaking and how you show you are listening. Are you showcasing sensitivity so that others will follow your lead?
- To manage others productively: Employees work smarter and better when they believe they have more decision-making authority, that their colleagues are committed to their success, their suggestions won’t be ignored, and their mistakes won’t be held against them
- To absorb data better: Force yourself to do something with new information – write a note, test the idea and explain it to a friend
- To encourage innovation: Creativity emerges by combining old ideas in new ways. Become an innovation broker by studying your emotional reactions to experiences, stress will emerge but it is not a sign that everything is falling apart. Remember to critique what you’ve done from new perspectives
This book may bring to mind the old saying of – If you want something done ask a busy person. Perhaps this now needs to be re-framed into – If you want something done well ask a productive person.
Author: Charles Duhigg