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BW Businessworld

Lead Review: Get On Track

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First off, do not get ‘sidetracked’ by the title of this really good work. In fact, that’s exactly what I did. Looking at the cover I thought this was a book on how to stick to your plans and get things done. But Sidetracked by Harvard Business School professor Francesca Gino talks about something much more interesting — how our “good” intentions are often undermined by hidden biases and agendas. The book deals with those subtle influences that often force us to get ‘offtrack’ even in the simplest decision-making situations. Often, what we think is right and proper is not what our actions reflect and thus we get sidetracked.

The book is clearly structured around the three main influencers: forces from within, forces from others and forces from the outside world. Each section is divided into chapters about these three key areas. Using Gino’s personal experiences — as someone who grew up in Italy or as a consultant to major companies — along with multiple research studies conducted by Gino and her colleagues, each chapter presents a concept about how we are motivated in our behaviour and how conflicts in motivation lead to undesired results. Each chapter ends with a practical antidote or enabler for the condition. These anecdotes help the reader relate to the concept and visualise how they could be getting caught off-guard and ‘sidetracked’.
Binny Bansal
Thoroughly researched and informative, the book’s clarity and simplicity of structure are quite refreshing. Gino possesses a wealth of well-constructed research and experience — both inside university labs and in the business world. This book is filled with carefully explained studies that have taken many years to collect and establish, as well as many insights from the business consulting world.

Nevertheless, I found myself skipping through detailed descriptions of some of the experiments as there were multiple experiments explaining the same point. Gino could have moved some of these to an appendix.

The book has helped me have a much better appreciation for my own motivations, drives and blind spots, as well as those of others around me. It would be particularly useful for those who need to understand the motivation of self and others. It would also be useful for leaders and negotiators around the world.

Click here to read 'Combating Everyday Distractions'

That said, this is really not a ‘self-help’ book despite what its subtitle may suggest. It has a somewhat limited value as a practical guide that can be immediately applied in our daily lives. The truly practical advice that it gives, or the concrete steps it espouses, are minimal and usually relegated to just a couple of pages at the end of each chapter. But this a smart, insightful and very well written book that has a lot to offer for those interested in psychological underpinnings of our decision making.

Bansal is co-founder and COO of Flipkart

(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 01-07-2013)