The Choice by Eli & Efrat Goldratt: review with mindmap notes

[I used to write a lot of book reviews, but I stopped mid last year. I don't intend to re-start on a regular basis, but The Choice was so good I felt compelled to make an exception. I also posted this to my Goodreads account, the review is here - the only difference is that this blog post contains the mindmap notes I made.]

I'm torn between whether this is the best book I've ever read, or the second. It's in contention with The Goal, also by Eli Goldratt. 

The Goal introduces the concept of the Theory of Constraints by starting in a factory and identifying a manufacturing bottleneck. Towards the end, it talks about the idea that the thing constraining a business may not be physical, but mental - an idea or policy. The Goal's key idea is a process of ongoing improvement, targeted at whatever the current constraint is. 

The sequel to The Goal, It's Not Luck, takes this further, and shows (among other things) how to use logic maps to break down complex problems to find the root cause of the constraint. I've used this process several times, although I learnt the detailed mechanics from The Logical Thinking Process: A Systems Approach to Complex Problem Solving, and it's the most effective problem-solving tool I've found, by an order of magnitude. 

The Choice adds a whole new dimension by taking the essence of The Goal (focussing on the constraint) and It's Not Luck (thinking in cause-and-effect) and explains in simple terms how to apply it to, no less, the problem of having a "full, meaningful life". To do this, Goldratt claims - we must have enough successes, which depend on our stamina to overcome setbacks, our ability to create opportunities, and our ability to collaborate with people. 

Goldratt's argument is that to achieve these steps to a full life, we must be able to think clearly. But, we are blocked from thinking clearly by four obstacles: 
  • We see reality as complex, rather than (as Newton showed) a thing of Inherent Simplicity 
  • We accept conflicts as a given, rather than seeking to remove them 
  • We blame, rather than assuming goodness and looking for explanations of other people's behaviour 
  • We think "we know", rather than challenging our assumptions and looking for breakthrough ways to change a situation 
The book is written as a dialogue between Goldratt and his daughter Efrat. The real win from that is that as the conversation progresses, Goldratt removes one-by-one the barriers that stop Efrat believing that anyone can learn to think clearly. The end result is a few simple steps that anyone can practise. 

I've used Theory of Constraints tools to tackle big- and medium-sized problems before. But I've come away from The Choice enthused to practise day by day, hour by hour. It's an enlightening and inspirational guide to "thinking clearly".

Mindmap Notes

I read the Revised Edition of The Choice which includes notes by Efrat Goldratt-Ashlag. I made my own mindmap of the core concepts, and then added my notes about Efrat's notes. So the things grouped under "Efrat's notes" are really meta-notes…

3 responses
Good stuff. Reminds me of Problem Solving 101.
What did you use to create the mindmap?
Looking for a logic map maker program.
Hi Adrienne. I made this mindmap of The Choice with @mindnode, it's available for Mac OS X and iPad/iPhone
Hi Ash excelent stuff (mind map)..... I am currently reading this book almost finished...... your mind map helps me to verbalize the summary. Thanks for sharing