Book Review: The Focus Effect by Greg Wells & Bruce Bowser

Perhaps you’ve heard the story of Greg Wells, breaking his neck early in life and this awakening him to pursuing of human health by studying its fragility and potential. His work is prolific, important and accessible. His first book that I read is called “The Ripple Effect” and addresses how to make incremental change by 1% change. His second book, “The Focus Effect: Change your work, Change your life” focuses on the workplace and realizing potential in this space.


You would be interested in this book if:
* you are interested in a perspective on the future of work
* you are interested in what habits of mind allow thriving in this future of work
* you are looking for hints and habits of mind to thrive in today’s transition to the future of work
* you are looking for examples of organizational change

The authors throughout the book contextualize their ideas and insights into the 4th Industrial Revolution:

Being responsive rather than reactive is critical. We are living through the biggest revolution in the way we work since our economy transitioned from agricultural to industrial a hundred years ago. We’re now transitioning from industrial to technological. Many industries are being disrupted.” (pg. 126)

And they offer some great language to support a change in mind-set: “We, as humans, need to adapt to this new landscape. We need to be able to provide experiences and  be agile in our thinking… We need to be able to create new ideas. Problem solving, creativity and agile thinking is the future.” (pg. 127)

Because of this new transition, this new normal, the authors argue that there needs to be a new way of working.

The old cliche “The early bird gets the worm” is no longer true. It’s been replaced with “The second mouse gets the cheese”. (pg. 133)

Dr. Greg Wells website is linked to this image

The emerging world of work that we, as educators, can prepare our students for looks very little like the current model of school. I do not call for a revamp of school, but rather placing school as a great transition time and space where students can sample, try new things, and have incredible learning experiences that support the development of knowledge, skills and values.

The authors do not directly tackle the realms of education, but they do offer some great insights into the world of work that educators would do well to heed:

(1) Consider communication: what are the contemporary modes of communication? What are the best pieces of legacy communication skills that can be integrated into the contemporary?
* for example, I grew up writing Precis and developing this skills has helped immensely in this era of texts and Email: being concise, reinforcing that less is more.
* being clear in any communications – sometimes this means reiterating the key message in different ways. Understanding one’s audience is key to developing effective communications

(2) Understanding “Time” is as flexible and agile as we are. I wasn’t sure how to articulate this clearly, but it requires us to look at how we are spending our time, and if there are ways to reconstruct it within our organization.
* we do this on a yearly basis, though, don’t we? We examine the timetable, the yearly schedule. I’ve been involved in some really creative discussions about time in education; however, the authors are provoking us to deconstruct time use, analyze it, and create a shared vision of the future of time.
* for example, they talk about ‘power work’: working during intense periods of uninterupted time, no texts, emails, etc… just what counts. Then building in periods of regeneration and refuelling. Building in the best of what we know about athlete training and applying it to our work.
* I love this idea as it applies to students – we know that the current timetable is not conducive to optimal learning. How might we…

(3) The idea of ‘Single-Tasking’. Take the most important thing, the priority and “work on first and perfome that task as exclusively as possible until it is either complete or we are out of what ever time we allotted for the job.” (pg. 203)
* Doesn’t this sound like a great way to structure Project-Based-Learning? If we can create an experience that ties in different strands of the curriculum, requires skills and attributes that are future-facing, and if the project is deep and meaningful, than surely we can do this. How might we…

In the end, I read this book to see how I might ‘level up’ my own game at work and in life; however, as I consider what my strategic priorities are, I was able to read this book through the lens of education. With this in mind, I highly recommend the book – it is a quick read, very accessible.

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