Smarter Faster Better

Rating: 4/5

I read Smarter Faster Better as part of a personal development book club discussion at Automattic. I had previously read Duhigg’s other book (The Power of Habit). This book was equally entertaining to me weaving stories and science to illustrate concepts that will help level up your work whether that’s leading a team or just working more productively by yourself.

On increasing motivation…

From these insights, a theory of motivation has emerged: The first step in creating drive is giving people opportunities to make choices that provide them with a sense of autonomy and self-determination.

Duhigg explained a story about recruits that often ask themselves “why” during tough times to reinforce motivation:

Moreover, to teach ourselves to self-motivate more easily, we need to learn to see our choices not just as expressions of control but also as affirmations of our values and goals. That’s the reason recruits ask each other “why”—because it shows them how to link small tasks to larger aspirations.

On leading teams…

Some leaders “have established a climate of openness that facilitates discussions of error, which is likely to be an important influence on detected error rates.”

Psychological safety…”a sense of confidence that the team will not embarrass, reject, or punish someone for speaking up…”

Two behaviors that all good teams share:

First, all of the members of the good teams spoke in roughly the same proportion, a phenomenon the researchers referred to as “equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking.”

…the good teams tested as having “high average social sensitivity” (knowing how each person felt based on tone of voice, posture, expressions, etc)

I loved this bit about “superstar teams:”

There’s a myth we all carry inside our head…we think we need superstars. But that’s not what our research found. You can take a team of average performers, and if you teach them to interact the right way, they’ll do things no superstar could ever accomplish.

Duhigg went on to elaborate on five key norms teams need to be successful:

  1. Teams need to believe that their work is important.
  2. Teams need to feel their work is personally meaningful.
  3. Teams need clear goals and defined roles.
  4. Team members need to know they can depend on one another.
  5. But, most importantly, teams need psychological safety.

On managing others…

Employees work smarter and better when they believe they have more decision-making authority and when they believe their colleagues are committed to their success.