ICE Book Review – Decoding Greatness: How the Best in the World Reverse Engineer Success

By Rob Cooney (@EMEducation)

Decoding Greatness: How the Best in the World Reverse Engineer Success
By Ron Friedman

“No matter what you do for a living, you are facing significantly more competition than your colleagues did a decade back… but there’s a silver lining. Because if you do manage to differentiate yourself in valuable ways, positioning yourself as the Pavarotti of your profession, the rewards awaiting you are exponentially greater than those available to the stars of previous generations.”

If the above quote reflects your current thinking, this book will draw you in. It is really a book about learning, though it is not necessarily presented in that fashion. As the author explains, the book first sets out to describe stand out performers in a wide range of fields and learn how they became the legends we know them as. Unfortunately, we cannot copy their complete methodology. We must modify the methods to fit our own time and context. The second part of the book focuses on that problem, explaining how we can use reverse engineering to take what we’ve learned and execute on the path of mastery.

There are many lessons that we can take away from this book, whether it is in our own personal development or the teaching of others. As we admire experts within our field, we need to be able to capture what captivates us. This allows us to compare and contrast expert performers. As an educator, what will you collect? Presentation decks? Analogies for teaching? Teaching pearls? Consider this as you work with those colleagues you wish to emulate.

Another pearl that I appreciated is the recommendation to “think in blueprints.” High performers must often master a basic set of rules before they can begin to make their mark. Chefs use recipes, programmers use code. Examples are endless. What in our field could be considered a basic framework for mastery and emulation?

Similar pearls abound throughout this book. Chapters cover the discomfort between our desired performance and our measurable performance (vision-ability gap). He includes a top-notch chapter on metrics, the dangers of choosing poor metrics, and how to properly keep score for improvement. There is also an insightful chapter about “talking to experts.” Much of the material within this chapter would be useful for senior educators and learners alike. He nicely explains the curse of knowledge and why experts have difficulty explaining how they do exactly what they do and methods to still glean useful knowledge despite this challenge.

Overall, this is a quick read and I highly recommend it for educators across the spectrum of experience.

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