Blink- is a book about how we make decisions – do we go with our gut, trust our hunches or research the decision and weigh the pros and cons? Which is best? Many of us would believe that it is best to sit down and weigh the pros and cons when facing a big decision. Maybe look at possible outcomes both positive and negative – learn all you can before making that decision. Then when it comes to minor decisions – trust your gut instinct and go with that. But Gladwell believes that we make better major decisions when trusting a hunch or our gut because our brains are capable of something he calls thin-slicing which is the ability to subconsciously weigh through information to make a snap judgment based on past events/experiences. Our brains already have all the information necessary to make major decisions and by adding facts and figures we overload ourselves until we don’t know how to proceed. Minor decisions are best made by looking at the pros and cons because there is not as much information to consider so it’s easier to reach a conclusion.
It’s important to remember that Gladwell is a journalist and not a scientist. Although often presented as research, he is really providing stories to illustrate his observations and theory of thin-slicing. There are many stories showing how people make decisions and how some people just “know” the answer even when they don’t know themselves how they know. For example the story about the statue and the Getty museum – lawyers and scientists researched and tested a statue that they were considering purchasing for 14 months. Eventually they concluded that it was authentic based on the proof they gathered. But the art experts took one look at the piece and just “knew” that it was a fake. How did they know? Even they couldn’t explain. They just knew. Gladwell would say that they had vast resources of knowledge that their brains subconsciously drew upon, leading them to the conclusion that the statue was not what the seller claimed it was.
I think Blink has value as leadership tool because it tells us to examine our biases and that its ok to rely on our judgment. That a decision made in a moment does not mean that it has any less value than a decision made in 14 months. In the business world we don’t always have 14 months to make a decision so it’s good to know that our brains have the ability to adapt and form snap judgments that we can rely on.
What do you think? Should major decisions be left to our instict or carefully researched and thought out?