As part of our on-going further reading recommendations, here is a review I wrote of Sophie Devonshire’s “Superfast”. Sophie is CEO of The Marketing Society and hosted our launch webinar: “Wonder Women; what does the future hold for women in marketing”.
The book isn’t specifically about women’s issues but does include lots of useful insights and suggestions for anyone in marketing, or business more generally.
“Superfast, Lead at Speed. How pace can drive performance” by Sophie Devonshire
“There is a difference between being in a hurry and being in a rush.” says Sophie Devonshire and so while her book Superfast is all about leaders’ need for speed in a rapidly accelerating world, it’s really a guide to achieving sensible speed and pacing yourself.
She uses author and personal development specialist W. Timothy Gallwey’s analogy of the perils of working at breakneck speed to make her point. Gallwey talks about the dangers of ‘driving a Maserati without brakes’ and how ‘when we are running on adrenaline generated by one crisis after another, it can be very hard to find the brakes, much less want to apply them’.
Devonshire’s book sets out useful strategies, tips and techniques for delivering pace profitably, even when some of that advice sounds at first counter intuitive.
Chapters include how it is important to manage your energy not just your time, how having a clear and well-embedded purpose can help accelerate your business, how you can structure your business to increase speed, the power of editing and why focus can be faster, the benefits of truly knowing your team and as importantly knowing yourself, tips on hiring and firing – hire smart, fire fast, the helpfulness of honesty, how it can be smart to stop and the power of the pause, and a chapter on the three D’s – decide, delegate and deliver.
Each chapter ends with a succinct summary and suggested key actions; “The Espresso Takeaways”.
Along the way she introduces some powerful concepts like ‘TQ’, ‘critical friends’ ‘constructive considered candour’, ‘creative abrasion’ and ‘to lead, read’.
TQ is a companion to IQ and EQ and it is ‘time intelligence’. A concept coined by Simon Devonshire (no relation to the author) who defines it as ‘an innate, intrinsic, subconscious, almost fanatical addiction to the monitoring of time and its commercial practice and commercial performance results over time.’ In answering the obvious question about when the right time is, Devonshire quotes Jeff Bezos, “most decisions should be made with somewhere around 70% of the information you wish you had. If you wait for 90%, in most cases, you’re probably being slow.”
Critical friends are the antidote to yes men and women. Devonshire quotes a Heidrick & Struggles report which emphasized the importance of having trusted challengers, “One of the most important things is having people around you, telling you how wrong you are”.
Constructive considered candour is similar to ‘brutal truths’ but with the added benefit of the consideration of how those truths can help you or your business overcome issues. As someone who has long championed ‘constructive challenges’ it resonated well with me.
Creative abrasion is another antidote, this time to the old adage that all ideas are good ideas and that you must treat new ideas gently. It is an idea I’ve read about in other books, notably ‘Creativity. Inc.’ by Ed Catmull (of Pixar and Disney fame), but it is a very useful one.
To lead read not surprisingly appealed to me as a reader and an author, so it was good to see the importance Devonshire put on it. She sees it as a feature of being constantly curious and having an ongoing yearn to learn.
The book is based on Devonshire’s experience, her wide reading (and a very healthy dose of Jim Collins’ ‘Good to Great’) and a series of interviews she conducted for the book; a highly impressive list of leaders.
It isn’t a quick or light read, as she acknowledges on page 148 of the 316 page book; “if you’ve gone to the effort of reading this far, you’re probably not afraid of a bit of hard work”.
While the book is about leadership, I’m first and foremost a marketer and I would recommend her chapter on the power of purpose to anyone interested in the concept. It’s a good argument for its benefits.
So, sit down with a grandé flat white or whatever your choice of coffee is, and dive in.