Book Review: Smarter, Faster, Better – Charles Duhigg

Well Written

Charles Duhigg displays his writing acumen in “Smarter, Faster, Better” and that, perhaps, explains my ambivalence toward the book. The book’s title, “Better, Faster, Smarter” sets expectations of being focused on productivity, which it does, but it takes some work to get to the productivity discussions. Duhigg uses two or three antidotes and stories per chapter, tying them together to frame productivity help, which overshadow productivity insights. I found myself wanting to skim the stories to get to the point of the chapter, and the book, which was productivity.

Focus

Duhigg used great stories that were written quite well, but I was expecting to learn the “how” of productivity, rather than how pilots prepare for disasters, Saturday Night Live staff created great shows, or how the movie Frozen ended up being a hit. The stories were engaging nonetheless. If you are looking to discover how productivity works (Duhigg’s goal), and like to read interesting antidotes displaying how productivity works in specific contexts, you will probably be happy with the book.

However, if you are wanting to learn more of how productivity works, but don’t have the time, energy, or desire, to read a 400 page book that is, in my opinion, summed up in the appendix, then there are many “summary” books on Amazon that, I assume, provide more focus on productivity. I took four pages of notes in a Moleskine notebook, so I did find quite a bit of value. While I ended up skimming the first part of several chapters, I found, at times, the strong writing pulling me back into the Duhigg’s accounts of productivity at work.

The chapter titles describe the productivity area addressed in the chapter; Motivation, Teams, Focus, Goal Setting, Managing Others, Decision Making, Innovation, and Absorbing Data. The appendix was especially helpful as Duhigg outlined how he used these productivity methods as he was writing the book.

Still Helpful

Despite myambivalence there was insightful productivity advice amid all the stories. While some of the advice has been outlined elsewhere, I found the connections and combination of productivity methods helpful, such as connecting SMART and stretch goals, team norms, decision making, and the chapter outlining innovation. In retrospect, there was quite a bit of insight throughout, it is unfortunate that those insights get dwarfed by lengthy background accounts. I recommend this book if you want insightful productivity advice and don’t mind the background accounts, or, don’t mind skimming. If you have grown weary of business and productivity books that are mostly stories, you might want to check out one of the many summary options.

I received the ebook in exchange for an honest review.

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