Smarter, Faster, Better, by Duhigg

Sunday March 27, 2022

This is a very readable book that talks about motivation, teams (psychological safety), appropriate focus, goal-setting (big and SMART), management, decision-making, innovation, and absorbing data, all through interesting stories. There's some good stuff.


Duhigg connects his book about productivity to the idea of his first book on habits.

"Productive people have habits—what psychologists might call 'contemplative routines'—that push them to think more deeply about the choices they make." (page 6)

The book spends substantial time exploring possible biological determinants of motivation, and then becomes less fatalistic.

"Motivation is more like a skill, akin to reading or writing, that can be learned and honed. Scientists have found that people can get better at self-motivation if they practice the right way. The trick, researchers say, is realizing that a prerequisite to motivation is believing we have authority over our actions and surroundings. To motivate ourselves, we must feel like we are in control." (page 19)

"The division [Google's People Analytics] had successfully pushed to increase paid maternity leave from twelve to eighteen weeks because computer models indicated that would reduce the frequency of new mothers quitting by 50 percent." (page 42)

"In the age of automation, knowing how to manage your focus is more critical than ever." (page 76)

"Most pharaohs were considered elderly if they made it to thirty-five." (page 194)

I think this is not correct; see Life expectancy is historically misleading.

Intermediate disturbance hypothesis

"Productivity is about recognizing choices that other people often overlook." (page 284)