As a sequel of sorts to the international bestseller In Praise of Slow, journalist Carl Honoré’s new book is part advocacy for social reform, part psychological guidebook for anyone who has ever needed to solve a problem (that is, everyone).
With sharp, rhythmic prose, Honoré presents a number of guideposts to effective problem solving supported by intriguing anecdotes from sources as diverse as a Harlem daycare, Domino’s Pizza, and a study of municipal reform in Colombia. Each tale is worth reading on its own, and combined they make for 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.
Honoré originally set out to provide “a skeleton key to unlock every problem” by identifying common elements of successful problem solving. He found instead that human beings are far too complex for such a catch-all rubric. If there is one thing we need to keep in mind to avoid failure or repeating mistakes, it is that we should resist the temptation to look for a quick fix. We place too much value on immediate results – a quality the author attributes to certain psychological tendencies in decision making, modern society, and our natural survival instincts.
Although there are times when a fast solution is required, Honoré argues that we must be prepared to slow down and consider both the big picture and the details. We must prepare checklists, show humility, and confess our mistakes. We must be willing to work in quiet isolation and with others, consult with experts and non-experts. Yes, these guideposts are at times contradictory, but Honoré says that only confirms our complexity. We must be open to different ways of solving our problems.
For readers in a hurry, Honoré’s insights can be gleaned from a quick skim of the book, but it is more fruitful and certainly more pleasurable to savour each story, each charming turn of phrase, while also contemplating the rewards of taking it slow.