Productive people can be found in every business, sector and corner of the world, and Duhigg’s research for Smarter, Faster, Better saw him looking into everyone from Disney imagineers to French airline pilots and plenty in between.
His new book encourages people to step back and see the bigger picture, and to be wary of getting caught by routine and process – affectionately described by the author as ‘cognitive tunnelling’. Duhigg made this point to IoD members, saying that unproductive people tend to simply go through the motions to reach a goal, rather than picture themselves having already achieved it, in the way that successful athletes do. He also conceded that productive people were simply better at learning from – and adapting to – their mistakes. They just pay ‘more attention to the nitty gritty of failure’ he said.
Smarter, Faster, Better is interspersed with unlikely examples, one of the most striking being a look at how the hit Disney film Frozen became such a global success, without being (as he attested) particularly original. He suggested the good folks over at Disney had just exerted a little more control over the creative process, taking tried and tested formulae, and assembling them into something new. Add a sprinkle of panic/anxiety, and they were well on the way to something productive.
In a moment that shocked some members of the audience, Duhigg also predicted that Google’s dominance is likely to be short-lived. Competition is just too fierce for them to hold on to that monopoly forever, Duhigg said, and history is against them.
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Smarter, Faster, Better, published by Penguin, £20
Look out for an interview with Charles Duhigg in the next issue of Director magazine
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