Book Review: “Wait: The Art and Science of Delay”

by Frank Partnoy

“Limited Time Offer!!!”

That’s what your sales folks wanted your ad to say, but you’re not sure.

First of all, yes, you want to light a fire under your customers, but that “offer” seems ineffective. People are getting wise to that kind of thing; they know better. On the other hand, there’s basic human behavior: buyers are inclined to procrastinate.

You want time to think about this, because restraint can be good — business-wise, personally, and biologically. Find out why in “Wait: The Art and Science of Delay” by Frank Partnoy.

When you were young, your mother often said that good things come to those who wait.

Of course, Mom was right. Studies show that when your heart rate quickly responds to temptation by speeding up, it bolsters your ability to “delay gratification and remain calm…” That kind of heart rate variability helps you deal with deferment, thereby allowing the time for better decision-making, and conferring better mental health, less impulsiveness, and strengthened self-control.

From the world of sports, we know that a micro-millisecond of waiting is where athletes excel. Pro tennis players, MLB batters, and NFL-caliber footballers have all learned, subconsciously, to wait a fraction of a second to determine incoming ball position so they can make the proper move. This fractional wait, Partnoy says, is what separates the pros from the amateurs.

Even our electronics need to slow down now and then. Technology gurus have discovered that quick does not always equal efficient, and that small pauses make computers run better. Speed-of-light operation is not only technologically unnecessary, but it might actually cost more to do business.

Speakers, musicians, and comedians understand that a pause of some sort gives listeners’ brains a chance to catch up and process. Matchmakers understand that relationships strengthen when a potential couple takes time to get to know one another. Inventors know that allowing their minds to mull is a great way to boost creativity, and “thin-slicers” are learning that snap judgments and first impressions are sometimes wrong.

Overall, it seems, the best thing we can do is to wait when it comes to decisions, actions, and reactions. Wait until the last minute. Wait until the last second. And if all else fails, wait to apologize… but not too much.

Feeling impatient to get your hands on a good business book? Then take a deep breath and look for “Wait.”

Using science, technology, biology, and cultural expertise, author Frank Partnoy engagingly shows his readers why the rat race is better run by the tortoise. With this book in-hand, you’ll learn how productivity expands when employees are given leeway, why you should teach your children patience, how an active brain ignores manipulation, and why procrastination can be a good thing. Those points, as well as the permission it gives to mosey along some, are why I enjoyed this book.

If rush-rush-rush is getting old-old-old, then don’t delay in getting this lively book. For you, and anyone who longs for business (and life) at a slightly slower pace, “Wait” offers perfect timing.

Book reviewer Terri Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was 3 and never goes anywhere without a book.