Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Book Notes - Smarter Better Faster

Smarter Better Faster: The Transformative Power of Real Productivity by Charles Duhigg

This will be the best book I read in 2017. Notes are a little obscure, highly recommended.
Chapter 1 - Motivation
Concept - Internal locus of control
This is a useful lesson for anyone hoping to motivate themselves or others, because it suggests an easy method for triggering the will to act: Find a choice, almost any choice, that allows you to exert control.
Motivation is triggered by making choices that demonstrate to ourselves that we are in control. The specific choice we make matters less than the assertion of control. It's the feeling of self-determination that gets us going.
"We praise people for doing things that are hard. That's how they learn to believe they can do them" - drill instructor
The choices that are the most powerful in generating motivation, in other words, are decisions that do two things: They convince us we're in control and they endow our actions with larger meaning.

Chapter 2 - Teams
MBA study group
Google Teams
Saturday Night Live - Lorne Michaels
"I believe that the show has lasted 40 years because Lorne is a genius when it comes to recognizing talent, rolling with the changing times, and encouraging everyone (while developing their individual voices) to work with each other so the total is greater than the sum of its parts.” - Alan Zweibel, producer writer
Concept - Team psychological safety - shared belief that the group is a safe place for taking risks. It describes a team climate characterized by interpersonal trust and mutual respect in which people are comfortable being themselves.
Good teams: First, all members spoke in roughly the same proportion. Secondly, good teams tested as having high average social sensitivity - groups were skilled at intuiting how members felt based on their tone of voice, how people held themselves and the expressions on their faces.

Chapter 3 - Focus - Best chapter in the book
Air France 447
Qantas Flight 32
Concepts - mental models, reactive thinking,
Cognitive tunneling - cause people to become overly focused on whatever is directly in front of their eyes or become preoccupied with immediate tasks.
If you want to make yourself more sensitive to the small details in your work, cultivate a habit of imagining, as specifically as possible, what you expect to see and do when you get to your desk. Then you'll be prone to notice the tiny ways in which real life deviates from the narrative in your head.
To become genuinely productive, we must take control of our attention; we must build mental models that put us firmly in charge…. Get in a pattern of forcing yourself to anticipate what's next. If you are a parent, anticipate what your children will say at the dinner table. Then you'll notice what goes unmentioned or if there's a stray comment that you should see as a warning sign.

Chapter 4 - Goal Setting
Yom Kippur War
SMART goals vs stretch goals
Japan inventing a faster train - bullet train thinking
Concepts - need for cognitive closure

Chapter 5 - Managing Others
FBI case - the guy who was kidnapped
FBI software Sentinel
Agile programming
Toyota Quality - factory line
Concepts - push decisions to lowest level of where they can be made

Chapter 6 - Decision Making
Poker players
Concepts - comfortable with being uncomfortable about decisions
Making good decisions relies on forecasting the future, but forecasting is an imprecise, often terrifying, science because it forces us to confront how much we don't know. The paradox of learning how to make better decisions is that it requires developing a comfort with doubt.
How do we learn to make better decisions? In part, by training ourselves to think probabilistically. To do that, we must force ourselves to envision various futures - to hold contradictory scenarios in our minds simultaneously - and then expose ourselves to a wide spectrum of successes and failures to develop an intuition about which forecasts are more or less likely to come true.
Fortune-telling isn't real. No one can predict tomorrow with absolute confidence. But the mistake some people make is trying to avoid making any predictions because their thirst for certainty is so strong and their fear of doubt too overwhelming.

Chapter 7 - Innovation
Disney story trust
West Side Story - combined unique things for a new play
Diversity of ecology
Concepts - things that have worked in the past, combined in unique ways, from people that are innovation brokers
Tree fell to break the cycle for diversity in ecology
We can create conditions that help creativity to flourish. We know, for example, that innovation becomes more likely when old ideas are mixed in new ways. We know the odds of success go up when brokers - people with fresh, different perspectives, who have seen ideas in a variety of settings - draw on the diversity within their heads. We know that, sometimes, a little disturbance can help jolt us out of the ruts that even the most creative thinkers fall into, as long as those shake-ups are the right size.

Chapter 8 - Absorbing Data
One way to overcome information blindness is to force ourselves to grapple with the data in front us, to manipulate information by transforming it into a sequence of questions to be answered or choices to be made. This is sometimes referred to as 'creating disfluency' because it relies on doing a little bit of work… "If you make people use a new word in a sentence, they'll remember it longer. If you make them write down a sentence with the word, they'll start using it in conversation." … When Alter conducts experiements, he sometimes gives people instructions in a hard-to-read font because, as they struggle to make out the words, the read the text more carefully... When information is made disfluent, we learn more.
When we encounter new information and want to learn from it, we should force ourselves to do something with the data. It's not enough for your bathroom scale to send daily updates to an app on your phone. If you want to lose weight, force yourself to plot those measurements on graph paper and you'll be more likely to choose a salad over a hamburger at lunch. If you read a book filled with new ideas, force yourself to put it down and explain the concepts to someone sitting next to you and you'll be more likely to apply them in your life.

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