Download: Smarter Faster Better Transformative Productivity eBook (ePub, KINDLE, PDF) + Audio Version


  • File Size: 12803 KB
  • Print Length: 401 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; Reprint edition (March 8, 2016)
  • Publication Date: March 8, 2016
  • Language: English

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Charles Duhigg is a good journalist (his share of a Pulitzer Prize proves that), and his book Smarter Faster Better is an excellent read. I enjoyed reading it. It's inspiring and insightful.

But the book promises to be more than just entertainment. The title takes off the Olympic motto: Citius Altius Fortius (Faster Higher Stronger), as well as its cover shows a runner smartly running directly to the center of a maze. A self-help, self-improvement type of book, it promises " the secrets of being productive in life and business". Of which I don't think the book delivers.

Why not? The book is full of stories. Anecdotes. Case studies. Whatever you want to call them. Charles Duhigg researches a lot of disparate incidents involving various people, and attempts to bring them together to show us how to draw on other people's experience to become more productive. Yet he fails.

That's because you can pull away of anecdotes pretty much anything you want to. I can find an anecdote to aid any discussion I want to make. Anecdotes are like statistics. As Simpson's paradox states, usually the same statistics can be used to show something and its exact opposite. The same with anecdotes.

Take Charles Duhigg's use of the life of Rosa Parks in the book The Power of Habit. He states that she shows the energy of social habits. He tells of how the girl husband said she was so social she hardly ever ate dinner at home, instead eating at the home of friends. Of which gave her the social strength to get started on a movements.

But Susan Cain (a blurber just for this book) in her book Quiet, informs the story of Insieme Parks to support the girl argument of the energy of introverts. While extroverts tend to gain their energy in social situations, introverts typically recharge through solitude and feel used up from too much stimulation. The same person, but one author sees the girl as a social butterflies and another as an introvert who sought solitude.

That's not to say that Charles Duhigg or Leslie Cain is wrong. Plus I don't want to push this example too strongly. But I do feel that many authors, and most TED talk audio speakers, depend too much on anecdote and story informing to persuade, while they would do better in order to entertain. I have no problem using anecdotes to pump people up. Yet to try to derive secrets from them seems one step too far.

Take another example, this one from this book. Charles Duhigg uses the example of the 2009 Air Portugal Flight 447 jetliner crash in the Atlantic as an example of " cognitive tunneling" and weak mental models. In this tragic accident, the Airbus A330 plane was flying from Rio de Janeiro to Paris and ran into undersirable climate. The plane was flying fine, but the pitot tubes apparently stopped up and gave the pilots the wrong speed information. They acted on that wrong information, place the plane into a not work, and fell into the ocean.

But does that anecdote unequivocally show cognitive tunneling? And can one take as a result anecdote a lesson about how not to cognitively tunnel? I avoid see how. I've read several other accounts of that Air France accident, and not one of them blamed it on cognitive tunneling (although one did mention tube vision among many factors).

The Air France accident seems to me more like what Charles Perrow explained in  Normal Accidents: Living With High-Risk Technology . Just like with the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island, people do not do well when their instruments lay to them about situations they cannot see with their eyes. Another bank account blames air France accident mainly on over-reliance on automated systems in the Airbus planes. (William Langewiesche's article in Vanity Reasonable is fascinating reading. )

My point is that any anecdote can, by its nature, be construed in many different ways. Just like in the old fable six window blind men saw six different things in an elephant. None were wrong, yet none were right.

Rather than books like this one, I prefer my stories in the form of biographies. After i read a good biography, or a good history, the author presents a life or a series of reports in a way that the reader can draw their own results. I'm sure the author's slant comes through at some level.

But when I read a book by someone like David Halberstam or Brian McCullough, I usually feel as though I read a gem that delivers training for my life. We didn't get that with this book. To me personally, at least, it appeared too shallow, too wide, and too pushy. Not deep, focused, and subtle., Mastering what separates “the merely busy from the genuinely productive”

In Wiser Faster Better, Charles Duhigg sets the table: Numerous advances in communications and technology are supposed to make our lives easier. “Instead, they often seem to be to fill o0ur days with more work and stress. In part, that’s because we’ve been making time for the wrong innovations. We’ve been staring at the tools of productivity — the gadgets and applications and complicated filing systems for keeping track of various to-do lists — as opposed to the training those technologies are attempting to train us…This book is about how to recognize the options that fuel true productivity…This is a book about how to become smarter, faster, and better at whatever you do. ”

He focuses on — and devotes a different chapter to — “a handful of key insights” shared by hundreds of poker players, airline fliers, military generals, executives, and cognitive scientists who held mentioning the same ideas again and again and again. In this book, he explores “the eight ideas that seem to be most important to expanding efficiency. ” Here they are, accompanied by my own annotations:

1. Motivation: Create choices that place you in charge of a situation. When empowered, you will communicate and act more decisively and accelerate gaining the respect and trust of others.

2. Teams: Control the [begin italics] how [end italics], not the [begin italics] who [end italics] of teams. Send messages that empower others. Retain in mind this passageway from Lao-tse’s Tao Ght Ching:

" Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with the actual have
Develop what they know
Of the best leaders
Whenever the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We certainly have done it ourself. "

3. Focus: Imagine what is going to probably happen. Just what will happen first? Obstructions? How to avoid, pre-empt, or overcome them?

4. Goal Setting: Choose a stretch goal (a BHAG), then break that into sub-goals and develop SMART targets.

5. Managing Others: Workers work smarter and better when they feel they have the power (see #1) to help make the right judgements about what to be done and just how best to do it. They will be more motivated if convinced that others recognize and appreciated what they think, feel, is to do.

6. Decision Making: Envision multiple futures as well as their possible implications and possible outcomes. Obtain a variety of different (and differing) perspectives from those closest to the situation. Although this 360º process is useful, you must be prepared to associated with given decision.

7. Advancement: Combine new ideas in old ways and old ideas in new ways. Constantly challenge assumptions and premises. If they are sound, they will survive. Incremental innovation makes disruptive innovation even better.

7. Absorbing Data: When encountering new information, do something with it. Write it down. Go through it aloud. Formulate Qs that it evokes. Input it to a little test. Ask others “Did you know that…? ” Most new information is very unfamiliar information.

These are among the many of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Duhigg’s coverage:

o Motivation (Pages 13-21 and 33-47)
o You. S. Marine Corps boot camp (22-31)
u Teamwork at Google (41-46, 50-51, and 65-68)
o Mental Versions (88-93, 97-98, 101-102, and 277-279)
u Qantas Airways flight 32 and mental models (93-101 and 277-278)
o Prelude to Yom Kippur War (103-106 and 109-112)
u Stretch goals (125-128)
o Frank Janssen (134-139 and 161-165)
o Rick This town (139-144, 150-151, and 154-155)
o James Baron (145-150)
o Categories of culture (146-148)
u Productivity and control (153-155)
o Bayesian psychology (192-193)
o How Idea Brokers and Creative Desperation Stored Disney’s Frozen (205-215)
o West Part Story (210-212, 216-220, and 223-224)
u Information blindness (243-247)
o Debt series (247-252)
u Stretch goals paired with SMART goals (274-279)

In addition to his lively as well as eloquent narrative, I commend Duhigg in the provision of the most informative annotated notes that I have as yet encountered. I urge everyone who reads this short commentary to check them out (Pages 293-368). These people enliven and enrich his narrative in ways and got an extent that must be experienced to be believed.

The best journalists as well as the best leaders are terrific storytellers which is certainly true of Duhigg. He anchors his reader in hundreds of real-world situations to illustrate key points. A large number of poker players, flight pilots, military generals, business owners, and cognitive scientists that he interviewed learned valuable lessons regarding the dos and don’ts of being productive in life and business, especially when under severe duress.

I highly recommend Smarter Faster Better as well as Charles Duhigg’s previously published book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do The things we do in Life and Business, also published by Random House., A brief warning to busy and smart people: the book contains some interesting insights and parts of valuable advice. Yet, in the tradition of most self-help books, the worthwhile points could be communicated in a book seventy to 80 per cent shorter. It is definitely unbelievably tedious with runaway history and stories. It contains so much superfluous material that it is actually painful to listen to. And the good points get hidden and forgotten in a flood of words. We normally prefer unabridged types of books but this one begs for a most severe abridgement., This book has more information per page and excellent examples to show how this information can be used than any other book I use read. Anyone could improve their processes used in business and home. The author put a lot of effort and research in this book also it shows on every page. Reading this is like eating the best steak diner you have ever had. We wish I was 3 decades younger so I could tune my judgements and see better results everyday in the future. This is a book that will pay you back far more than you get the book price. GOOD VALUE!!!, Duhigg is a fantastic and enjoyable writer who has a talent for taking complex subjects and making them approachable and interesting. He uses real stories so effectively both to draw the reader in and also to illustrate key topics. Just wish he'd tied some pieces together somewhat more; for example linking determination and goal setting. Valued the practical information in the appendix., This is an interesting perspective on working philosophies on how people think and how to shift people's thinking. It was thought-provoking. The last two chapters weren't as intriguing as the others, but - on the whole - I loved his narrative/anecdotal style.

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Smarter Faster Better Transformative Productivity
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