Sidetracked

Francesca Gino

Published by

Harvard Business Review Press

ISBN

9781422142691

RRP

£16.99

Reviewed by

Mike Rees IT Consultant MBCS CITP

Score

7 out of 10

This book describes a number of common influences that can conspire to divert us from our original plans and desires. Its objective is to help identify and avoid these influences so that our decisions stick, and we achieve the intended outcome. One of the aims of the book is to ‘help you stay on course toward your personal and professional goals.’

Based on 10 years (mainly academic) research, nine key principles emerge from three categories of influence - i) forces from within ourselves, ii) forces from our relationships with others, and iii) forces from the outside world. The book is not specifically aimed at the IT professional, and perhaps belongs more in the ‘self-help’ category.

The book is absolutely packed with research case studies - how else can the nine key principles stretch to 230 pages? However, the style of the writing made it feel much less of a text book on experimental psychology than it might have been.

A few typical examples from the book:

  • The ‘cracked pot’ - an ancient Chinese parable that demonstrates what can happen when focusing too much on detail and not enough on the bigger picture.
  • The ‘endowed progress effect’ - where people who receive an artificial inducement upfront of reaching a goal pursue that goal with greater persistence then when no inducement is offered.
  • ‘Counter factual thinking’ - which means imagining different choices that could be made or could have been made when faced with a decision. Doing so should lead to a better understanding of the factors that are at play.

Despite the wealth of case studies, there were only a couple of real-world examples and most of the experiments were about personal rather than professional choices, so this is not a huge database of solutions for our everyday business decisions.

However, for those whose job relies on key decision-making, it might be worth getting hold of a copy - even if only one or two ideas come out of it.

Further information: Harvard Business Review Press

June 2013