Book Review: Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

I read Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell on a recommendation by Andy Leonard. Easy recommendation to take, I had previously read Tipping Point by the same author and found in interesting. Blink looks at something called ‘thin-slicing’, the ability to make a judgment based on a very quick and very small sample, more commonly called instinct or snap judgment. The premise is that thin slicing is usually based on clues that we detect, but we don’t always know that we detect, things that our subconscious processes and seemingly tied in to some of fight or flight response.

There are some interesting examples. One person is a tennis coach has was able to predict with about 95% accuracy in double faults by professional players. Another did a study of married couples and was able to guess after analyzing only a couple minutes of conversation the likelihood of divorce. Another example was of a firefighter who avoided a catastrophe and attributed it to ESP, but eventually were able to detect the clues that had warned him in time to move his team back.

Of course, sometimes we get it wrong. Interesting to think about why we arrive at our decisions. Experience isn’t to be discounted. At the same time, we’re often influenced by factors that bias us in a bad way; gender, voice tone, even height.

I don’t get it right all the time either, but I’ve learned to – mostly – trust my instincts. If something doesn’t seem right, from too good a deal on something to hiring an employee that just doesn’t seem like a good fit, I just say no. Maybe I’m wrong, but over time I’m regretted it more than not. Sometimes when I realize my instincts were wrong, I can fine tune some, figure out what I saw that triggered the false alarm.

Doing it on instinct is easy. Doing it enough times that you can explain your instincts, I think that is pretty hard, but incredibly valuable because the success rate would go way up. Good read.