Blink is a pretty well known book by Malcom Gladwell which is about the power of "thinking without thinking". It gets to the essence and power of what he calls the "unconscious". It seems the unconscious is a combined series of intelligence and intuition developed over time that more often than not seems to know best. When we let our thinking get in the way it's called conscious behavior.
The main disagreement i have with Mr. Gladwell is the value he places on experience (see below). It seems that our collective experiences always seem to be the cause of our troubles. Decision making free of that experience (and I'm not even talking hecessarily about bias here I'm talking about shared, unexamined experience) seems to be the best decision making of all.
The book is a really easy read and has some interesting points to it. The main one is the concept of "thin slicing". Just as it sounds (unless you're a pizza delivery guy) thin slicing is taking interactions and situations and breaking them down to tiniest level to take in the information as a means to evaluate what's going on.
Often times we pick up on the thin slicing without even knowing it and when we let that knowing become our guide in our actions we often make better decisions. Where he suggests it gets tricky is when we ignore the intuitive connection to thin slicing by using our conditioned mind that has biases.
One example he gave was how people who audition for major orchestras now do it behind a screen because there had been a historic built in bias that certain instruments are for men, so qualified women were not getting picked. When they are behind the screen, the listener thin slices for technique and passion in the music rather than evaluating who's playing it.
He also made the point (again and again and again unfortunately) that in times of stress if we aren't prepared for it, our mind and fear take over what our unconscious power has the capability to accomplish. I thought that he spent too much time looking at this through the lens of law enforcement but at least I got it right off the bat.
Finally, I was struck that at the end of the book, he wrote an afterword where he laid out the three things that he thought the book should accomplish. I understand if there were lots of people who were asking that question on book tours, etc., it just felt a little unusual to feel the need to include it. Shouldn't I be able to judge it for myself?
Regardless, they were:
- From experience, we gain a powerful git, the ability to to act instinctively, in the moment and it's easy to disrupt this gift. This is probably the single hardest thing about this book for me to swallow. It seems to me that experience is the very thing that disrupts the ability to act in the moment. Collective experience seems to be the thing that gets us into all the trouble we're in.
- Understanding the true nature of instinctive decision making requires us to be forgiving of those people trapped in circumstances where good judgment is imperiled: Given #1 I resonate to #2. I am forgiving to people who often do the seemingly unforgivable because they are acting instinctively based on their experience because often their experience is awful.
- Knowing less can be an advantage: I agree. I think the marginal benefit of additional information in decision making reduces but quick after a certain point. But doesn't that directly contradict #1, meaning the less experience or information I have, the better?
Despite not completely agreeing with the book, I do agree that it was a worthwhile intellectual exercise and a book definitely worth reading.