Think Smarter, by Michael Kallet (Hardcover, 2014)|
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want a hardcopy)
Reviewer: Mark Lamendola, author of over 6,000 articles.
It might be easy to confuse this title with "Think Smart" by Dr. Restak. The
two books are unrelated. The Restak book is based on medical research into the
plasticity of the brain. This book is based upon the author's practical
experience with critical thinking methodology.
Think Smarter is an excellent addition to the existing literature on
thinking, problem-solving, and intelligence (yes, all of those topics). I
also recommend it for managers, engineers, programmers, executives,
policy-wonks, and others who are frequently confronted by tough problems.
Thinking your way to a good solution is not normal for people in these
positions, it's exceptional. If you hold one of these positions, applying
what you learn in this book can make your performance exceptional.
Perhaps due to the author's practical, hands-on background, this book is
practical in its presentation. That's true in several ways, such as these:
- He keeps it concise. This is a hallmark of good instruction guides,
manuals, and tutorials; all of which are practical in nature.
- It contains no wild theories.
- Every recommendation is doable by the intended audience.
- The examples are realistic and representative of what the reader is
likely to encounter when needing the toolset provided.
- The language is practical, e.g., "toolset."
A possible criticism of this book is it doesn't give you a "best
practices" formula that any idiot can follow. If it did, it wouldn't be a
book about thinking. So people who are looking for some 10-step system that
they can implement without having to think are just out of luck. Personally,
I consider this "defect" to be a huge plus. Many books on management,
leadership, problem-solving, and similar topics are reductionist in what
they actually cover, surrounding the "meat" of the book with long forays
into the author's non-expertise based opinions on unrelated topics. In Think
Smarter, you find that Kellet focused on helping the reader to develop
thinking skills and to develop the ability to apply those skills in a
That last part is, er, critical. You can be the smartest person in the
room but if you're not in tune with the situation you may have zero effect.
Kallet provides many examples of how to apply critical thinking in a
practical manner when you are part of a team. Rather than, for example,
assert that the other person is wrong a more effective technique is to ask
that person why he reached his particular conclusion. This can stimulate
conversation that leads to better outcomes.
Kallet has an accessible, engaging writing style. It is clear from how he
writes that he has mentored other individuals. It is also clear that he is
confident in his knowledge, because he uses simple language rather than
trying to puff himself up with needless verbal complexity. So I found this
book enjoyable in addition to being informative.
But what about the content? Does Kallet really know what he's talking
about? Or is this just a mental version of the many diet books that don't
offer workable solutions? First, Kallet does have real-world experience. He
runs a decade-old company that trains business leaders in critical thinking,
problem-solving, decision-making, and creativity. That's a pretty good
indication he's an expert.
I give his information two thumbs-up, but does my opinion mean anything?
I had quite an impressive track record as a plant engineer, wrote the
Mindconnection problem-solving course, write a regular column on
troubleshooting (for a trade magazine), and publish a brainpower newsletter
twice a month. So, yeah, if I like what somebody says about thinking
methodology that's probably a good endorsement.
Now, here's one more thing to consider. Most people simply do not think,
and that has serious implications.
Thinking is a purposeful endeavor, and most of us are on auto-pilot. All
the time. That's due to several reasons, including chronic sleep deprivation
(rare is the individual who gets adequate sleep, according to the Sleep
Institute). But maybe the main reason is few of us get the training needed
to enable us to think in a systematic way. So the results of thinking
(improperly) are no better than the results of not thinking at all. Thus,
not bothering with thinking is the better choice because it takes less
This book solves that problem for you, by showing you how to think both
competently (get the right answer) and effectively (make the solution
happen). The effort you put out for thinking will pay off, thus making it
Really good thinkers in the USA are maybe 8% of the population. Suppose
we could flip that ratio around, so really good thinkers are 92%.
Would the crooks who currently get "voted" into office be able to get
elected in nation of thinkers? Nope. Would we have an IRS terrorizing the
populace while pretending to have something to do with funding the
government? Nope. Would the national debt have increased 80% in just five
years (starting in January, 2009)? Nope. Would unemployment be at its
current level of 51% in the USA (that is the actual number, as only 49% of
working age adults have jobs)? Nope. Thinking doesn't solve every ill, but
the major problems we have today have resulted from a profound failure to
think at all.
On a personal level, just look back at poor decisions you have made. What
if you had been able to think your way to good decisions, instead? How would
this ability be life-changing, going forward?
Competent thinking can pay off not just for the individual, but for
society as a whole. If you purchase this book and incorporate what Kallet
teaches, you will be part of the solution. Think about THAT for a while.
This book consists of an introduction and 34 short chapters spanning 207
pages. This book is worth reading from cover to cover. But when you're done,
keep it around as a reference and go back to it every so often to see where
you can improve. You'll be glad you did. Better yet, buy a second copy for a
a friend and make a point of co-mentoring each other on thinking better.
Just have a 30-minute phone call on a regular basis (e.g., twice a week) to
share your success stories and your "oops moments."