Almost a year ago, I read and reviewed Malcolm Gladwell’s very popular Outliers: The Story of Success. I thought it was pretty entertaining and enlightening, so when I finally had some time to read another book, I picked up another book from the same author – Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. It’s also a very famous book. I guess once an author becomes popular from one book, all his other books will also become popular – I call this the Dan Brown effect. And not in a good way – there are many bad books that got sold more than good books simply because the author is famous, and there’s nothing we can do about that.
I was fairly disappointed by this book. If I had to come up with an explanation (which the author strongly discourages in this book) for the disappointment, I would say it’s because the book is a combination of being Captain Obvious, and talking BS, using logical fallacies to “substantiate” his claims. In fact, I’m so disappointed with it that I decided to write this review when I’m only 3/4 the way through the book, because I don’t think I’ll finish it.
In essence, in this book, Malcolm tries to convince people to, instead of spending time, gathering all available information, and making informed decisions, they should rely on intuition and the “blink of an eye” feeling. On “thin-slicing”.
He then went on and give a few examples of good decisions made in the blink of an eye that saved the day.
Yeah well, if you get me to make 50 binary decisions in the blink of an eye, I’d probably be able to get half of them right, too. The fact that some historical good decisions were made in the blink of an eye does not mean there aren’t equally many bad decisions made in the blink of an eye, or that worse decisions would have been made if the decision maker had more time.
Yes, some decisions have to be made in the blink of an eye by necessity – his examples include on the battle field, and dangerous firefighting situations. That does not mean we make better decisions in those situations, and that we should rush to conclusions even when we had the luxury of time to carefully consider all information.
That is the BS part.
In the book, he made it seem like he is just making one claim – that we should rush decisions. However, if we dig a little deeper, it’s apparent that he is drawing examples from 2 very different pools.
The first group he drew from is what we discussed above – where people get lucky and happen to make good decisions in the blink of an eye. Again, doesn’t mean anything.
In the second group of examples, someone, with a lot of experience and expertise in the matter at hand, were able to make good decisions in shorter time than others. Yes, we know that. So what? It doesn’t add anything to his claims.
That’s the Captain Obvious part.
I think I should stop ranting now.
Interestingly, I’m far from the only person that disagrees with the book. Someone even wrote a whole book (Think: Why Crucial Decisions Can’t Be Made in the Blink of an Eye) to disagree with this book!