Thursday, 10 July 2008


Malcolm Gladwell

This book is just plain cool and it's actually hard to say precisely why. Humans think and make decisions very quickly without knowing we do this, or even understanding how we can do it.

There are two immediate rammifications:

  1. If you know a field well, and I mean very well. If you've studied it, trained in it, worked and lived in it, then your snap thought process, your 'Blink' is very valuable. You should trust it.

  2. If this isn't your field of expertise though, your brain will find something to react to, some stereotype you aren't even aware of and react to that. Frequently, that stereotype will be "I don't like that because it's different." In these cases your 'Blink' will lead you wildly astray. Don't trust it - it's hard, but dig deeper and take time.

A major flaw may have occurred to you: if you can't understand these instant reactions, how do you know which one you're having? Well, if you're honest with yourself, of course you know. Either you have studied something, or you haven't.

But that doesn't work well for the softer skills like reading people. Every thinks they're good at reading people.

And there's the Dunning-Kruger Effect waiting to bite.

So what can you do? Well to start, read this. It's a truely fascinating study of people and how we think. And, being aware of the decisions you make without thinking is actually a pretty powerful antidote to those times it leads you astray.

You've just met someone. He seems like a pretty good guy and you like him. Your powers of rationalisation will tell you that you like him because he seems confident but easy-going. You also liked his mildly self-deprecating introduction. And if this is social, great! Just go with it! But, if this is an interview and you're on either side of the table, stop and ask yourself. Is that all true, or do I just like him because he's tall?

Seriously. Read the book. Gladwell also wrote The Tipping Point which I will be definitely be reading.

No comments: