Smarter Faster Better

Charles Duhhigg Also available in audiobook: Download our app for free listening.

Producing more and better is a fairly common goal. Who does not want to be more productive, waste less time and learn to cross their limits? That is precisely what the author of this book wants to teach you to do. In the book, author Charles Duhigg presents some key concepts for achieving high productivity - from motivation to creativity and innovation. Using real case examples, the author explains how to encourage and use these key concepts in your company, as well as the importance of each of them to achieve good results. And believe me, you can improve your way of doing things you already do! Learn to cope with less stress and increase your productivity! Become smarter, faster and better at everything you do!

Where Motivation Comes From

A study of the brain was conducted with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to find out where the motivation comes from. The methodology was simple: a dull game was played, which required participants to guess a result. In this way, the researchers would see which areas of the brain were active during the feelings of enthusiasm and expectations. They realized that there was a striatal activity, regardless of the outcome of the game.

With workplace changes, understanding motivations is very important, especially in business. The way people work has changed, now that many people are freelancers or self-employed. The people who are successful in this new economy are those who make efficient decisions about how they spend their time and energy. It requires the ability to set goals, priorities, and make choices.

To be self-motivated, a person must believe that he has authority over his actions and his environment. People who believe they have control usually work hard and are more confident. Therefore, people must have opportunities that allow them to make choices, giving them a sense of autonomy. We can create motivation by making choices that allow us to feel in control of situations.

For example, the Marines needed people with strong "internal control," that is, people who believed they were able to influence fate through their choices. Internal control has many advantages, such as academic success, high motivation, less stress and depression, and a long life. On the other hand, external control is associated with high levels of stress and individuals who believe that most situations are out of control.

Training is a useful way of letting people practice control to awaken their internal controls. The training regime of the Marines was adapted to allow recruits to make choices and feel good about taking control. Give people the opportunity to feel in control, allowing them to practice decision making, and they will learn to exercise willpower. To get better self-motivation, people need to see their choices as affirmations of their values and goals.

The most important decisions to generate motivation are those that convince us that we are in control, but also give meaning to our attitudes. That is a mental habit of turning tasks into meaningful choices, giving us authority over our own lives. To do that, it is important to ask "why." That makes the smaller tasks turn into bigger pieces that are more meaningful and put us in control.

Learning With Teamwork

One girl realized that she needed to change her life and decided to take an MBA at Yale. During the MBA, students were divided into predetermined study groups, from people who allegedly had different backgrounds. This girl was excited about her study group until she discovered that all the members of the group had a similar background. That generated a passive power struggle, as each member tried to take control. And so the group members became stressed and insecure, rather than learning from group work and making friends. Since she was not getting the experience she hoped for, she joined another group that worked with case studies.

These individuals were all from completely different backgrounds, but somehow they got along and worked very well together. They met whenever possible sharing ideas. And they worked so well together that their ideas were implemented in Yale and across the country. She wondered why two teams were so different, and how one of them could be so stressful and competitive while the other was supportive and enthusiastic.

After she graduated, she went to work at Google with people's reviews. Her focus was specifically research on group norms. Group rules are specific traditions and behaviors that determine how members should work. They watched the data, looking for group norms that produced efficient results for a team. They found that group norms play an important role in shaping the emotional experience of a particular group.

Research conducted with teams has determined that a team works well together if each person has an equal opportunity to speak. Another factor was the members' ability tointuitivelyfeel how others are feeling. In other words, empathy is very important in group work. Teams that have successful individuals may not be successful when working in groups.

Automation And Focus

Automation has taken control of many aspects of our lives today. It is through the use of technology that we can now predict results and anticipate our actions. However, we also have the cognitive automations, which do not need the technology. Heuristics enable us to perform multitasking and subconsciously give us the ability to choose what we will pay attention to and ignore. Automatic technologies have made our lives more efficient, productive and safer, but in return have increased the risks caused by failures in human attention. And this is especially true when we need to switch between automation and focus in high-risk situations, such as in airplanes or cars.

A psychological consulting firm began researching how people make decisions in certain situations, and how some people remain calm in the midst of chaos. They interviewed people who have high-risk jobs, such as firefighters and soldiers, and then studied intensive care units and nurses who monitor numerous stimuli at a time in a chaotic environment. The goal was to determine how these nurses decide what to pay attention to and why some nurses are more focused than others. Some nurses could stay calm during emergencies while the others were desperate. These nurses are very good at managing their attention and were able to create ideas formed in their minds. Some people can create mental models that are more specific and detailed than others, allowing them to better choose their focus.

Maintaining focus has always been difficult, but automation has made this task even more complicated.

A flight left Singapore to Sydney. The pilot had strong mental models, and he taught his team before each flight to create their models, going through every possible emergency and discussing what they should do in each situation. He believed that even an automated plane needed human pilots to think about what might happen, rather than waiting to react when something happened. The plane took off, and he activated the autopilot.

Before activating autopilot, there was a loud noise on the plane. It was a fire, which caused an explosion, and the shrapnel made a hole in one of the wings, also cutting off one of the fuel lines. Almost all systems and engines were failing, and the pilot asked to return to the airport.

The plane emergency system gave instructions, but since there were too many problems, it was difficult to follow them. With all this chaos, the pilot felt drawn into a cognitive tunnel despite his attempts to imagine the airplane's mental models and its options. By changing his mental model and imagining the current situation and what he should do, he was able to safely land the plane.

Establishing Goals

There is a personality questionnaire, similar to a personal, organizational test, that was developed to measure a characteristic known as "the need for cognitive closure." This characteristic is a desire for a confident judgment about confusion and ambiguity. Most people have a mix of answers, but there is a percentage of people who need to have a lot of order in their lives.

Most of the time, a cognitive closure is a good thing, it allows a sense of progress and is a requirement for success. However, this desire has its risks and can make some people yearn for it and make hasty decisions without consideration. These people are usually closed, authoritarian, impulsive, impatient and prefer cooperation conflicts.

General Electrics has done a bit of everything from product manufacturing to TV shows. They believed that success was a result of their ability to choose goals wisely, and they used a procedure called SMART to define them. That ensured that each employee had a specific goal, realistic and achievable. However, two divisions were not doing well, so GE sent a specialist to interview employees and find out what could be improved.

These employees were so focused on creating efficient and smart goals that productivity was affected. A lot of time was spent on trivial short-term goals, and no one was thinking in the long term or in innovations. Employees seemed to love the system, reaching small goals made them feel good. They brought in a professional to help with the problem and to lead meetings, which encouraged employees to come up with ideas.

Years later, while GE's CEO was in Japan, he told an inspiring story of an experiment and innovation at the end of World War II. It led to the creation of the first bullet train. The Japanese economy has grown, and their success has spread worldwide. The CEO was inspired and came home to implement the notion of ambitious goals. So along with all SMART goals, each division needed to think of an ambitious goal.

Encouraging Your Employees

One man went to a job interview at a General Motors factory. He had worked there before, but that factory had been shut down two years earlier because it was considered a bad vehicle factory. Only in that now had she been renewed. GM was now working with Japanese Toyota to reopen the factory and improve production, but they had to rehire at least 80% of the former employees.

The man's first interview was short, but before leaving, the Japanese interviewer asked him what he did not like about working for GM. He said he did not like working on cars with bugs that needed to be remounted and repaired. He also could never give his opinion, and when he had a good idea to improve the production, was ignored. He received a job offer soon, but he needed to go to Japan for training. When he got there, he found the factory very similar to the one he used to work with, and he did not think he would learn much. And it was so until an error occurred. Instead of repairing the error later, the line stopped so that a worker could correct the error under the supervision of his superiors, and then the production continued.

When he returned from Japan, the clerk told everyone about what he learned and how the company worked. Everyone was skeptical that these things could be deployed at the factory. The company assured them that there would be no layoffs unless the enterprise failed and that all employees could come up with ideas to implement.

From the beginning, they could see that things were different. Officials did not cause any more problems as before, but the problem was that no one stopped the production line or made suggestions because they were afraid of being fired. And this happened until the Toyota boss paid a visit to the factory and noticed that the men had difficulty putting the taillights in the cars.

He asked them to stop the line. The Toyota chief apologized because he had not received instructions from his managers, and said that this would not happen again. After that day, the line was cut off whenever they needed it, and the staff made suggestions. Eventually, this plant became one of the most productive units.

Two researchers knew that an atmosphere of trust in a company generated an increase in productivity. And they needed to collect data to prove that idea. They started collecting data from Silicon Valley technology startups - by this time the internet was new, and companies like Google had not yet come up.

They conducted surveys in many companies, collecting as much information as possible to get a general idea of each culture. They were able to gather a lot of information, and with them, they concluded that most companies had cultures that fit into five different categories.

  • The first culture was the "Star Model." In this model, employees were hired from famous universities and other successful businesses and received a lot of autonomy.

  • The second culture was Engineering Model. This culture was focused on groups that solved technical problems and on people who could be successful, but they still had to prove it.

  • The third culture was "Bureaucratic Model." These companies had strict rules and hierarchies that needed to be followed.

  • The fourth culture was "Autocratic Model." Similar to the previous culture, but all the rules and responsibilities revolve around the wishes and needs of the CEO.

  • The final culture was the "Commitment Model". These companies had the more traditional culture that prioritized slow but steady growth and encouraged employee loyalty.

The researchers studied these companies to determine which type of crop was best. At first, it seemed that the model Star Model was better, but it can fail because of competitions and rivalries. In the long run, it is the Commitment Model culture that works best.

Creativity, Innovation, And How To Achieve Them

A famous choreographer got in touch with other people in the business to create a show that was a modern version of Romeo and Juliet. He was very creative, and most people accepted his invitations.

His idea was bold and unlike the other plays on Broadway. They decided to add the element of the race, in a play called West Side Story. It took them years to create the script and the choreography, since they were always trying new things, so they decided to use some conventional elements as well.

Finally, they finished production, but they had to find financing; most people did not want to finance it - except someone in Washington who was a long way from New York.

Before the rehearsal began, the choreographer told his colleagues that he was not happy with the first act. The opening scene gave a lot of information very quickly. This man was known to be brutal, but he was also capable of detecting creativity and forcing others to think of new and better things. The first audience did not know how to react to this piece since it was performed in a completely different way. And this happened because he mixed original and conventional ideas to create a new thing.

This idea of encouraging the creative process by taking traditional ideas from various places and combining them to form something new is a very efficient method.

Researchers have done studies on creativity, focusing on what was familiar to them - the academic articles. They analyzed many articles using an algorithm to determine how many of them had new ideas or original concepts. They found that there are several different methods for writing a creative study, but all articles revolved around earlier ideas that had been combined to create new and different ideas. This process is not new and can be seen in historical inventions, just as in any scientific field. The important thing is to transfer knowledge between areas and adapt correctly.

There is no formula for creativity. It is derived from novelty, surprise, and many other elements. The right environment and conditions can be created to encourage creativity.

Absorbing And Working With Data

The amount of information we have received has increased dramatically over the past 20 years. We can monitor and quantify almost all of our daily activities. That does not mean, however, that we know how to best use this information.

Having so much information on hand does not make it easier to choose between what is best or what is not. The term "informational blindness" refers to the inability of the mind to absorb the data. Studies show that in many contexts, the more information people receive, the better decisions are made. However, if there is too much information, an overload, the brain seeks to reach a point where it stops making sound decisions or completely ignores the information. It happens by the way the human brain uses it to learn.

We can absorb data very well because we break down large amounts of data into smaller pieces. A person can overcome this by forcing them to interact and manipulate information into questions that can be answered. It takes work, but the effort is rewarded since you will be able to absorb lots of information and force the process that makes understanding easier.

Absorb the data around you, absorb information from past experiences, and take advantage of them. Do this to create influence so that you can interact and use information more efficiently. You can only learn something new by manipulating the information. A study was done to see if students learned best by writing notes in class or by entering notes. Those who wrote made fewer notes, but as they had to work harder, the results of those students were better.

Final Notes:

The focus here was on some important concepts, from ideas such as motivation, goal setting, and focus. All of these concepts were used to explain why some companies or people do very well and are productive.

Findings from neuroscience, psychology, and behavioral economics were used, not to mention the experiences of CEOs, educators, generals, FBI agents, pilots or Broadway writers. This book explains that the most productive people, companies, and organizations not only act differently. Productivity and success are the results of a worldview and different choices.

12min tip: The author of this book, Charles Duhigg, is famous and not idiotic. New York Times columnist and author of several bestsellers, it is clear that here in the 12min would not lack his works. Read with us, then, the most famous of them: The Power of Habit.

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