I’m not sure how Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg ended up on my Amazon wish list. Perhaps it was because one of the first stories in the book deal with Marines and new approaches they are taking to get recruits motivated.

There are 7 chapters and they all go into something that’ll make you better in some manner. The formula for each chapter interleaves a couple stories, culminating in an actual concept that can improve your performance.

  • motivation
  • teams
  • focus
  • goal setting
  • managing
  • decision making
  • innovation

The Marine story deals with motivation and locus of control. The concept is that if you think control of your life is within you (as in you are responsible for your life) then you are likely to be more motivated. That makes sense, if you have a fatalistic attitude and life is more something that happens to you then you’re less likely to do something about it.

The book also references lean and agile concepts borrowed from manufacturing and software engineering. The stories in that chapter came together particularly well. An FBI software project was saved by using lean practices and agents in the field used that software to solved a kidnapping.

The same chapter that dealt with agile also talked about commitment culture with respect to management. He describes a big study during the dot-com era in Silicon Valley that evaluated different company cultures. The results indicated that a commitment culture, this is a company where the leadership puts the welfare of employees as a high priority, do better more consistently than other scenarios. The probably reason is low turnover means less intellectual property walking out the door, less expense in training people. Those teams also built up a lot of trust that enabled collaboration and general healthy environments.

The book was good. Not all of the ideas are shocking but it’s good to firm up the concepts.