It’s been a few weeks since our New Year’s resolutions faded into obscurity, but most of us harbor a lingering hope that we can become more productive. In Smarter Faster Better, New York Times reporter Charles Duhigg breaks productivity into eight parts that improve performance in surprising ways.
As in his bestseller The Power of Habit, Duhigg layers anecdotes, research and reporting, making potentially dry analysis compulsively readable. The tragic 2009 crash of Air France Flight 447 happened because the pilots had become so dependent on the highly sophisticated flight display that they overlooked a fatal human error in their midst. By contrast, a similar plane was landed safely by a pilot who tuned out all the alarms and stripped his focus down to the parts of the plane that still worked and maximized his use of them.
Chapters on teamwork, motivation, management and more illustrate their points through stories from the first season of “Saturday Night Live,” a Marine Corps training exercise, competitive poker and the Disney musical Frozen. An appendix helpfully shows readers how to translate these concepts into daily use. The “stick man” diagrams from The Power of Habit are back, clarifying points with often humorous visuals (check out the two tiny engineers toasting one another with cans of Mountain Dew).
The Power of Habit showed readers how behavior is guided by cues and rewards; once you see the system, making small hacks comes naturally. Smarter Faster Better looks even deeper, with tips that can help fine-tune behavior, improve relationships at work and lead to better outcomes in a variety of settings, while somehow also being an edge-of-your-seat exciting read. Duhigg has done it again.