Kenny K. Lee


Duhig, Charles. Smarter Faster Better

June 02, 2016


This book is not what I expected. I thought it was going to be another self-help, productivity book (which I seem to be addicted to). Rather, it provides insights into human psychology, social dynamics, and observed techniques to maximize team effectiveness. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would.

4/5 stars

Personal Takeaway & Application

  • Company culture is #1 indicator of success.

  • Break tunnel vision by switching routines, employing different people/resources/techniques. However, too drastic of a change can lead to unproductive and unfocused results. Subtle and seemingly inconsequential changes can lead to breakthroughs.

  • When learning/reading about a topic, use it, talk about it, discuss it, and most importantly engage with the data. Taking action (any kind of action) on the data will lead to stickiness, higher rate of absorption.

  • If you want a topic to stick, handwriting is more effective than typing.


Personal, management, and team effectiveness is explored in various work settings, i.e., Google, airplance crash, wartime, education, etc.

Tunnel focus is something I experienced on the basketball court in high school, which can lead to both positive and negative results.

Bayes rule and power law is briefly discussed and supported by interesting examples, i.e., poker.

Innovation is taking disparate unoriginal ideas, and exploring alternate way of thinking from a different vantage point.

Misc Notes - Spelling / grammar mistakes included

Manager Effectiveness (Google’s Oxygen Program)

  1. Good coach
  2. Empowers and doesn’t Micromanage
  3. Employee success & well being
  4. Results oriented
  5. Listens and shares info.
  6. Career development
  7. Strategy
  8. Key Technical skills.

Effective Teams

Mixed personalities How feelings about teams are often talked about. Group norms plays role in team participation. Safe or threathened. Draining or energizing. This will have direct impact from group culture. Group norms is the answer to Google (how of team, not who). What is the most effective group norm?

Group norm, psycologial safety - group is a safe place for taking risks. Will not punish, embarass and mutual respect. Julia (Google) from Harvard researching hospitals.

Million $ question. Psycological safety without dissent and debate. How do you convince people to feel safe, without losing the ability to disagree?

When we focus on trying to be productive, we become blind to details that should give us pause. It feels good to have closure. Zarier, Israel war relate to Egyption attack.

Different company models:

  • Star - Hire top talent and give autonomy.
  • Engineering - Focus on solving problems as a team
  • Beauracratic - HR, dictate, organizational
  • Autocratic - Focus on CEO, leadership
  • Commitment - Focus on life long commitment from employees, CEO - build a company where people leave when they retire or die. Slow and steady growth. Pronounced dead by Silicon Valley in mid-90s. Getting culture right is more important than building the right product.

Biggest value came from Star model, but also had the higest number of failures due to in-fighting.

Consistent winner is the commitment culture, and fastest companies to go public. Choose employees slowly. Sense of trust between the employees. Examples:

  • Invest in training.
  • Generous work from home.
  • Daycare.
  • Focus on making employees happy.
  • Customers stay loyal for years of relationships.
  • Good employees are the hardest to find.

Probablalistic thinking is valuable. Narrow question from many vantage points and adjust. Question our assumptions and live with uncertainty.

Power law disbritutions, erlang curve. Bayes rule. Forecast base on observations with limited data.

Innovation brokers - creative people take diaparate ideas and create something original. Alternative ways of thinking.

Handwriting is more disfluent than typing - handwriter note takers have higher test score than typers. Handwriters learn more. When we encoutner new info, we should force ourselves to do something witg the data. If you want to lose weight, plot the weight data on paper, or explain it to people. Describe it, explain it, learn it. It will be more effective.