This was a highly engaging and thought-provoking book!
At our discussion meeting most participants agreed that it was on a lengthy side, but overall the points to take away form each chapter were worth the read. An average rating of 7/10 for this book from the Virtual Business Book Club!
Watch a 2-min intro from the author, and read our summary below:
Chapter 1 – Early specialisers in kind environments
In this chapter, David explains how the brains of sport players process information for success. He explains that a head start is preferable in so-called “kind environments” where patterns exist, e.g. chess, golf, hockey, etc. Early specialisers, i.e. children who practice a chosen sport from an early age, use “chunking” to combine information into recognisable patterns, hence it’s important for them to start as early as possible.
Chapter 2 – Set skills & experience vs abstract thinking
Modern work demands knowledge transfer: the ability to apply knowledge to new situations and different domains. We need to be able to think abstractly to derive new patterns rather than rely on familiar ones to accommodate the increasing complexity of the world. Having set skills and experience in a particular field is not enough.
Chapter 3 – Early generalisation – e.g. musical instruments
Basically, when you’re looking for the right instrument to play – what matters most is the number of instruments you try to play before choosing the one you’d like to stick with. David insists that in such instance early generalisation is preferable, i.e. spending time playing several instruments, rather than investing into one instrument only. Same goes for job seeking and hobby selection, but we’ll get to that later.
Chapter 4 – Learning techniques – struggle makes learning more effective in the long-run
The more you struggle during study – the more effective is your learning. It might seem that you’re not performing well in the short term, but you’ll notice later that you can recall the answers for questions you failed to answer at first attempt, and you’ve already forgotten the ones that seemed easy at the time.
But apart from practicing difficult questions, you should also give yourself longer breaks in between studying sessions, because “struggle is better than repetition”! Rather than rushing through several chapters/topics in one go, try returning to them in a few days instead. Your brain will protest, but it WILL learn in a much more effective way! Desirable difficulties make knowledge flexible.
Chapter 5 – Analogies help solve problems
To evaluate a project, focus on finding analogies, not on the specific details of your own project. For example, your construction project might have 10 expense items on the list, but rather than guessing how much the building will cost based on these 10 articles, research how much other similar buildings cost in the end and apply the result as your estimate. The more analogies you use, and the wider their range – the better.
Chapter 6 – “Quitters” – late specialisers succeed
Don’t be afraid to switch jobs often, or lose interest in a hobby! Apparently, people who are “quitters” are with a better chance of finding the perfect match, be it a job that suits their interests, or a satisfying hobby. A) they get more experience by trying out different things, B) they understand their needs better. Think of Van Gogh, who found a passion for oil painting in his late twenties!
Chapter 7 – Don’t aim for 10-year goals
People change with age, don’t try to predict what you will want to do 20 years down the line, try different things NOW. You might end up in a different space altogether, but getting a job you hoped to get 5 years ago is not an achievement if it doesn’t bring satisfaction.
Chapter 8 – Invite helpers from other industries
People outside your expertise solve problems better – if you’re making soap, don’t just rely on yourself and your colleagues to advise on a particular question. You’ve spent too much time looking at soap, get an optician, or a shoe seller to express his view – you’ll be amazed at the results!
Chapter 9 – Can you come up with different uses for your product?
Can you create something NEW out of existing technology? Try thinking outside the box and you’ll see there are multiple unexplored possibilities for existing capabilities. Breadth of experience is critical in uncertain environments.
Chapter 10 – Don’t feed your ego
Narrow experts should question their views and take an outsider view on problems. Never think that if you’re a neurosurgeon, you don’t have to listen to other doctors’ advice!
Chapter 11 – Travelling different paths
Be prepared to apply a different procedure to a problem. Even if there are standard procedures and “5-step solutions” in place (and have been for years), be prepared to alter them with time. The world changes fast, you need to adapt in order to succeed.
Next meeting: 18th March 2021, “Who moved my cheese” by Spencer Johnson