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Blink

I picked up Gladwell’s Blink and read it on the way out here to Denver (it’s a very quick read), and I agree with Coté’s assessment: it’s definitely worth a purchase. As has already been documented numerous times, the book essentially details the BIOS level thinking that goes on in our brain – the part that doesn’t think, just reacts. Sometimes for good, sometimes for ill, but always efficiently.

I won’t spoil any of the anecdotes for you, but here are a couple of thoughts that occured to me while I was reading:

Moneyball: A cursory read of Lewis’ famous Moneyball (see Claire’s take on it here) might suggest that Moneyball and Blink are intrinsically at odds. Moneyball, after all, is fundamentally about how the eye cannot be trusted and is not objective, and that talent evaluation based on pure scouting is inherently flawed. While there are some interesting areas of conflict, however, I think Moneyball and Blink are solidly aligned on one area: making decisions is very difficult to do, and the more information we’re presented with to make that decision, the worse we perform. For the Moneyball folks, the filter used is statistics, for the Blink folks, it’s an subsconcious processing machine designed to make snap judgements, but the commonality is clear: simplify the decision making process, and you have a better chance of making a good one.

Technology Purchases: Speaking of information overload, I caught myself nodding along as Gladwell described the difficulty humans have in making decisions when presented with volumes of information. One of the anecdotes discusses a hospital in Chicago that improved the process for diagnosis in patients at risk for heart attacks by limiting the primary decision points. My own experience validates this recommendation strongly. Think of the typical enterprise technology buying decision, and all the metrics that go into it: endless matrices, methodologies, NPV projections and other nonsense. Then think about what usually makes the decision – a compatability here, and must have function there. There’s no question in my mind that more information != better decisions. KISS, as always.

Acclimitization: One of the intriguing – and, frankly terrifying – areas of research that Blink goes into is feelings on race, gender, etc. Without spoiling it, Gladwell provides evidence that even people who profess to believe in equality, diversity and the like – and try to practice it – may be undone by subsconcious biases that they’re not aware of. Gladwell himself found himself guilty of this. That’s the bad news. The good news is that this can be combatted to some extent by acclimitization or priming. In other words, by intentionally yourself to images, experiences and ideas that are aligned with your conscious mindset, you give yourself some ability to reprogram that underlying part of your mind that’s biased. How does this relate to the technology world? Well, it certainly seems to me that vendors should be familiarizing themselves with competitive technologies, rather than strictly eating their own dog food.

I could go on and on – it’s that impressive a book – but you’ll get more out of reading it yourself than you will from me ;)

Categories: Travel.

  • http://dotnot.org Scott Sanders

    I would argue that Moneyball and Blink agree, just that Moneyball doesn't see the forest for the trees. :) The problem in the scouting situation in Moneyball is that the scouts only do scouting. The feedback loop is weak or non-exsistent for the person scouting. Without that, you have no new information to make a new decision upon, so the same old patterns emerge. If the scouts job was changed such that the scout followed the player he scouted through his entire career, the scout would change his decision making pattern, because of the greater amount of personal feedback.

    The 'filter' for Moneyball (statistics) is essentially a personal feedback loop, that helps generate those 'informed/inate decisions'.

  • http://dotnot.org Scott Sanders

    Also, the mass of information issue. If the scout was only given 10 minutes to make the decision for the candidate, he would be reduced that mountain of information (watching all the tapes of the player, watching the player live, comparing that player to others, etc).

  • http://www.redmonk.com/jgov James Governor

    yeah i got blink and wisdom on the way out to rome