Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success

Posted June 1, 2016 in Communication, Leadership, Self-Insight, What We're Reading

Written by: Shane Snow

Review by: Julie Melaschenko

The Premise: Billed as a book for entrepreneurs, Shane Snow’s Smartcuts is actually a great book for anyone looking for ways to innovate, simplify or create. A smartcut is a term Snow coins to describe the way in which a person jumps a series of steps towards success – not a shortcut, wherein one skips steps (potentially missing out on important learning), but a smartcut, where one uses a technique or innovation to move forward – a life hack with greater purpose.

Snow spent time as a reporter collecting various stories about startups and overachievers who gained fame during the early years of the internet. Through these interviews and his experience with his own startup, he formulated his theory on how these innovators moved so fast and illustrates it using their fascinating stories.

Snow begins with concepts like ‘hacking the ladder’ – analyzing how US presidents were more likely to shoot right to president than to work their way through the political ranks, and then moves to how Jimmy Fallon’s meteoric rise to comedic stardom was the result of his ability to ‘train with masters’. In all, Snow breaks his book into three distinct sections ‘Shorten’, ‘Leverage’ and ‘Soar’, and within these, uses compelling examples from both sides – those who succeeded and those who didn’t, to illustrate his nine principles to “catalogue the patterns through which rapid successes and breakthrough innovators achieved the incredible.”

The Bottom-line: This book surprised me. I would not have picked it, but it turned out to be a totally engaging read. Well written and free of jargon, the stories of success and failure, paired together in each of the nine principles, were woven together in such a way I couldn’t put it down.

I really liked that this book was almost more of a historical novel than a business textbook. I also came away thinking that the concepts prove that lateral thinking is a way to achieve success in any part of life, at any time in life, and that we should not be held back by any preconceived notions of what’s possible.

The last chapter or epilogue is the story of a young boy who didn’t give up and made his dream come true – and his success contains each of the nine components resulting in a framework for making the most of these ‘smartcuts’ – takeaways we can all use.

Roundtable Rating: recommended for leaders who enjoy stories of success and can learn from the mistakes and achievements of others.


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