Heard an interview with Malcolm Gladwell, the author of BLINK, on NPR early in 2005. It was just after I had to make a critical spot decision in seconds… then wondered for hours whether it had been the right thing to do. As it turned out weeks later, it was the correct decision to make, and in those weeks I had taken the opportunity to read this book, an impromptu personal gift from someone very close.
Had I read the book before, I would have felt more confident in my ability to make an intuitive snap decision that was right.
We all have to make quick decisions in our daily lives, some mundane and some critical. We make quick decision as simple as to what we will eat for lunch. We may also have to make fast critical decisions, such as how to avoid an impending car accident: do we brake, swerve or accelerate. And it’s just this “rapid cognition” that Gladwell writes about so well that can make the difference.
One could easily assume that BLINK is about dealing with intuition, as a colleague of mine thought when I described the book. That’s not what it’s about, because intuition is more of a concept used to describe our “gut feelings,” our emotional reactions that aren’t always very rational. BLINK deals with those rational first two second that are our rapid cognition.
Gladwell points out that contrary to the way were raised from childhood, there are times of stress and high pressure when fast judgment calls and first impressions are a better choice than slow, deliberate thinking for making sense of the world around us.
His examples are superb: code breaking during World War II, speed dating, marriage, medical malpractice (insightful – do read it twice). He even covers things as unusual as what you can discover about a person by being aware of what you see when looking around their bedroom, and interesting views about the best car dealer in New Jersey. You’ll just have to read the book to understand where rapid cognition fits in.
There is an entire chapter dealing with the power of “thin slicing” that deals with what some psychologists have recognized is our ability to make good judgement calls based on the “thinnest slice of experience.” The author delves into this subject quite well, and the examples that he offers are amazing.
But can rapid cognition go wrong? It it always the right way to approach things? Just read about what Gladwell calls the “Warren Harding Error” for the answer. He makes a compelling case for the fact that we can and will make “Warren Harding Errors” in so many types of circumstances, especially when it comes to hiring personnel. His suggestions here will help one recognize the differences between good rapid cognition and bad rapid cognition. Split-second decisions can often be either more accurate than many months of project management or scientific planning, or they can become tragic disasters. In this book the author shows that you can educate and exercise your rapid cognition to avoid hazardous traps.
We all recognize the importance of what happens in dating relationships at that instance when two people first meet. But it seems difficult to face the significance of what happens in the critical first seconds when we interview someone for a job, someone offers a new idea, or when a police officer has to make a critical quick decision at the moment a crime is being committed. Gladwell makes a compelling case to make us take rapid cognition as a part of our critical thinking process.
BLINK deals with those small situations we all face in our daily lives, with assumptions that show up when we meet new people, make important personal and business decisions under stress, or when we are forced to meet complex situations head-on.
This is one of those books that comes along and changes the way that you see the world around us. It’s a fairly fast read, neither too light nor too heavy, and if you’re anything like this reader, you’ll want to read it a second time just to get a bit more out of it.
Had reviewed this book on Amazon.com last fall, and have since given it as a gift.