The Slow Fix: Solve Problems, Work Smarter and Live Better in a World Addicted to Speed Hardcover – Jan 29 2013
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“Mr. Honoré has a winning style and an infectious curiosity about the minutiae of other people’s lives.”
—The Wall Street Journal
“Accessible, lucid and wise, this book should sit in every government and managerial office.”
“With sharp, rhythmic prose, Honoré presents a number of guideposts to effective problem solving supported by intriguing anecdotes…. A feast of stories about people overcoming all manner of obstacles, with the promise of showing us how to better cope with our own struggles.”
—Quill & Quire
“Honoré is a skilled journalist, well aware of the virtues of brevity in relating an anecdote or setting a scene or making a point. The narrative never bogs down.”
“After reading the first six pages of The Slow Fix at my desk, I turned to a coworker and exclaimed, ‘This is so good!’ . . . Honoré’s writing remains engaging throughout, with careful attention to the people and places that populate his examples of successful slow fixes.”
—Jack Covert, President of 800-CEO-READ
From the Back Cover
A doctor prescribes a pill to treat symptoms of a disease instead of the root cause. The CEO of a corporation takes a shortcut to financial growth. A new mom embarks on a crash diet to get rid of pregnancy pounds.
Quick fixes have become the commonly accepted approach to problems in almost every area of our lives. And yet these "instant" solutions don't work, lead to more problems, and end up taking more of our precious time.
With The Slow Fix, international bestselling author Carl Honoré doesn't only describe what's wrong with taking the quick or easy route; he shows us a new approach to problem solving that works in any area of life, from health and relationships to business and community. Honoré details a new paradigm for efficient, sustainable problem solving, teaching us how to utilize time to build expertise, take advantage of teamwork, find the right messenger to deliver our message, and much more.
The Slow Fix changes our understanding of problem solving. Whether we're negotiating the family chore load at home, addressing a delicate issue at work, or attempting to tackle something on a large scale, Honoré shows us ways to solve problems today that will prove sustainable for years to come.See all Product Description
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But when Honoré stops talking abstractions and gets into the details, he becomes an object lesson in his own point. He anchors each of his fourteen very short chapters on a narrative that supports his point, but only spends about half of each chapter on his exemplar story. He name-drops sources old and new, caroms among interesting but loosely organized anecdotes, and doesn't so much make his point as circle it, waiting for us to make his connections.
What Honoré terms "the slow fix" comprises a range of solutions to life's problems, which we can apply individually or (ideally) in some combination. We might think of these solutions as character traits, or leadership skills. They include, but are not limited to, long-range thinking, preparing for diverse circumstances, heeding the right advice, and honing our intuition. Our parents tried to teach us these traits as kids, but as adults, we too often need to be reminded.
Again, I agree with this, in principle. But Honoré explicates what each of these means in ways that sprawl all over the map. He will anchor a chapter about, say, fine detail thinking, on the story of an oil rig inspector who accurately predicted a major blowout. But he'll veer off, for little visible reason, to a paragraph about Steve Jobs, two paragraphs on classical music, a brief discourse on surgical antibiotics. It's like watching a ADHD student trying to paint.
In my favorite example, Honoré stops a discursion on a successful effort to revive a decrepit urban school, to quote a French marriage counselor. Honoré's source wants us to understand the importance of finding the unstated story behind one incident: "You cannot understand a Shakespearean play by listening to one soliloquy... A relationship is like a large and complex puzzle, so you need to examine all the pieces and then work out how to fit them together."
That's a clever quote, to underscore a valid point. But in context, what does it mean? It's a prime example of what rhetorician Gerald Graff calls a "hit-and-run quotation," where an author will throw some citation in, expecting the audience to instinctively understand why it matters. That line deserves to be unpacked more, because thrown out as it is, it looks like an inexplicable digression that slows the pace of an already rocky narrative.
I so much wanted to like this book. Research has shown, time and again, that the key to success rests on long-term investments and tenacity. You can tell how someone will handle work, education, and life by how long they can work on a math problem before they give up. Education journalist Paul Tough stresses the point that long-term perseverance makes more of a difference than sudden flashes of genius.
But Honoré just gives me no place to hang my hat. As he slaloms through his list of bromides, anecdotes, and pointers, he pauses on none of them long enough for them to have any sense of depth, or for them to feel particularly real to me. Though I did take a few valuable lessons from this book, one by one, I really felt Honoré expected me to supply the overarching narrative for him.
Honoré fixes his book among writers like Malcolm Gladwell, Susan Cain, and Charles Duhigg. And not only among them, he quotes them. I keep wondering if Honoré has a new idea for his context. The New Republic reviewed a book by the disgraced Jonah Lehrer as "self-help for people who would be embarrassed to be seen reading it." I didn't know what that meant at the time, but reading this book, I think I now understand.
In his introduction, Honoré admits he falls into the trap of the quick fix, and that he wrote this book as much for himself as for us. To which I reply: and how! Excluding the back matter, this book runs less than 200 pages. Honoré's important, timely thesis deserves much more conscientious unpacking. Instead, it becomes an object lesson in our society's addiction to haste.
This is where I have a problem with the book. Much of the material is only tangentially related to the slow movement. Honore is really stretching when he tries to relate online gaming solutions to the slow movement as he does in this book. Yes, there is actually a chapter on that.
This book is really just a bunch of chapters that do a fine job of explaining why the problems we face cannot be solved with a "quick-fix" approach. They are much too complicated for that. But I think the author is a little deceptive when he tries to use his well known (and well deserved) place in the slow movement to push this book. I think "slow" is the wrong label for this material. And I think it rather dishonest and deceptive in that it may pull in readers (like me) expecting something else.
So I really don't have much of a problem with the material in this book and would probably have given it 4 stars, although even then I feel it is a little disjointed in presentation. There is a lot in this book that has nothing to do with the slow movement and it is a real stretch to pretend like it does. There is a chapter on crowd sourcing to solve problems. OK, that is legitimate topic for a book on problem solving, but what does that have to do with "a world addicted to speed"?
This book is pretty good, but not great in content. But you have to accept the content does not live up to the title or sub-title nor to Carl Honore's history in the slow movement. In that regard I feel it is being marketed dishonestly. It's really about problem solving with a long-term perspective. That's really something different.
He mostly uses anecdotes to illustrate his points but the stories are not very compelling. And they're told with dense words and details that made my eyes glaze over sometimes. With an ironic smile, I kept silently urging him to get on with it. Apparently I read his message but did not internalize it.
Sure, there is wisdom in the book and I give it props for that. Honore is right about how our society is addicted to quick fixes and rarely do these quick fixes solve any underlying problems. He has solutions but they're more proverbial than practical.
If you're interested in a slow read about taking things slow, this book would be perfect for you.
Honore identifies 13 such fixes and devotes one chapter to each. He uses multiple examples in describing each of these fixes and shows how they can work in combination. He also identifies various books, companies and other resources where one can learn more about particular approaches. In summary he says, “When taking on any complex problem, take the time to admit mistakes, work out what is really going wrong, pay attention to details, think long term, join the dots to build holistic solutions, seek ideas from everywhere, work with others and share the credit, build up expertise while remaining skeptical of experts, thinks alone and together, tap into emotions, enlist a catalytic figure, consult and recruit those closest to the problem, turn the search for a fix into a game, have fun, follow hunches, adapt, use trial and error and embrace uncertainty. “ Even then in the end, Honore says, some problems cannot be completely solved and we have to learn to live with them.
In sum this book is very valuable as a way of thinking about both personal and organizational problem solving. Anyone can benefit from reading and applying it. I rate it at five stars because it is well written, important for our daily lives and useful for everyone. I disagree with one reviewer that says it is not a "self-help" book. We can certainly apply the ideas here to our own personal life as the author did with his example of having a bad back.