In Smartcuts, Shane Snow explores the methods used by successful people and businesses to achieve remarkable results in short periods of time. The short answer is they use lateral thinking. Rapid success is achieved by putting aside conventional thinking and finding new way to frame and approach problems.
Fortunately, lateral thinking is not limited to the realm of natural geniuses. Snow believes lateral thinking strategies can be learned. Most of the book is devoted to describing particular strategies or patterns of lateral thinking.
He places these strategies into three broad categories. Success hackers shorten the path. Innovators use leverage to get more out of their efforts. When they achieve success, they continue to move forward to higher achievement or to make progress in another endeavor.
Shortening the path to success often means getting off the conventional path. People who climb the ladder to success quickly often prove themselves in one field move laterally into another. They also seek feedback from experts, markets, and many trials, making improvements as they go.
Leverage is largely about building on what has already been achieved. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel or repeat what others have done; you can start where they left off. Not only can you leverage the knowledge and skills of others to start at a higher level, you can leverage the connections of others to make the connections you need. They also recognize opportunities and catch waves that propel them forward. People who use leverage successfully put in the work learning to use the tools that are available, deliberately looking for trends, and paying forward the generosity they have received.
Continuing success is largely a matter of momentum, continuing to make progress in one way or another. Focus helps to, concentrating on what is essential and stripping away distractions. In particular, it means dreaming big. Making and order-of-magnitude leap is sometimes as easy as making and incremental improvement, and it has an energizing effect on those involved, drawing in other excited dreamers to help make it real.
For each strategy, Snow provides illustrations of people who’ve applied them. Some of them a people he interviewed personally. Some are famous, though I think I was more interested in those who were unknown to me.
Even with lateral thinking skills, there is no way of getting around work. Lateral thinking may lead to new solutions that save a lot of time and effort, but implementing solutions to some of the biggest challenges is still demanding. In many of Snow’s illustrations, the “instant success” followed a lot of creative and diligent work. Smartcuts are not necessarily shortcuts.
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