I’ve just finished reading this book, Smartcuts: The Breakthrough Power of Lateral Thinking, and wanted to write about some of the ideas in the book.
Before I begin, I’ll start with a little bit about how I ended up reading this book. I read a lot of books on my Kindle and whilst I prefer not to shop with Amazon too much, I do really appreciate the recommendations that come from the books you buy and the books other people buy when they buy that book. That is the single most useful feature for an online bookstore in my opinion.
But, the majority of recommendations that I actually follow up are those that are made within the books themselves. I’ve found that quite a few self-improvement book authors are inspired by each other and will quote, reference or recommend the books that they like. So if you find a particular book inspiring or a great read, it’s not a bad idea to look into what inspires the author too!
Now, to the book!
Hacking The Career Ladder
In Smartcuts, the author brings up examples of how people became very successful in what appears to be an easy or non-traditional way. One of the things that we are all excited by is the idea of the overnight success, the person who comes out of nowhere with no experience in the field and blows everyone out of the water.
The true story is that these people have actually been building up their skills or portfolio quietly over time, doing something that they believe in for a very long time, before they make it big. They look for opportunities to get noticed and don’t give up just because they haven’t been noticed yet, and then when that opportunity comes along, they have all the experience and material they need to prove they belong.
Some people feel like they should only work on their passion and must not let themselves be distracted by anything else in life, but this book shows that no matter what you are working on, you are still building up career capital, and if you do your best and try to make a difference, when you want to switch, it will come a lot more easily.
You can get yourself to the top in one industry and then move over to what you really want to do, and people will believe in you, because you were already a success.
This is one of the reasons that I work really hard at what I do, while still nurturing my own passions for self-improvement. Sometimes I have a lot on my plate and feel overworked or tired or just plain fed up, but I keep at it because I still have these exciting little pockets of time when I get to make a minor improvement that improves my continuous improvement skills and grows my strengths in pursuing feedback.
Incremental Improvement vs. Big Change
Two other ideas in this book that fit very snugly together are simplicity and 10x thinking. A lot of the improvements that I make to the processes I work with are marginal gains, nothing really spectacular but just enough to save me 10 minutes here and there. But, every now and then if you really want to make a difference, you have to go back to basics and look at what is really important, and build only for that.
I did this myself with an Excel report that had almost 30 tabs for multiple differently grouped views of the same data. This was useful for those using it, but maintenance was a massive pain. I stepped back and looked at the requirements, having all these views with one set of data, and realised that if I introduced some ‘flags’ that signified different ways of splitting the data, I could actually break those 30 tabs down into 2.
This simplicity massively cut the amount of time it took me to produce and maintain the report, and by including a PDF guide with it the first few times describing how to use filters, I managed to help other people get a little more comfortable with Excel while looking at data they were more familiar with.
Additionally, I changed the way that I imported some of the data in the report and actually ended up creating a tool that could be used across multiple reports. This helped give me more ideas of cross-functional tools in my reporting and I’ve started building more of these tools that are easier to maintain and provide a lot more options with a lot less work.