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Grand Rapids, MI

Embarking Blog

...on the journey towards restoration of all things

Notes from "Blink"

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I've been reading Blink by Malcolm Gladwell (you might know him as the author of The Tipping Point. I'll be posting a few things from the book that are of interest. Blink is a book about split-second decision-making. It's about those situations "where the stakes are high, where things are moving quickly," and where we need to make sense of a lot of confusing information quickly and well. Gladwell thinks this process can not only be understood, but validated and even maximized. So, the book is an exercise in describing those who make such decisions fast and well. He also looks psychologically at how this happens. He's digging into what he calls the "adaptive unconscious" in which a system in our brains reaches conclusions without our conscious realisation that or how we are making those decisions. Call it a gut feeling, if you will. The thing is, some do it well and some do it poorly. Here, he explains it quickly in the introduction:

"This new notion of the adaptive unconscious is thought of... as a kind of giant computer that quickly and quietly processes a lot of the data we need in order to keep functioning as human beings." [p. 11]

This "rapid cognition" as he also calls it, is something we actually rely a lot on (ie. fear, crisis response, etc.). Some people, though, are able to apply this to leadership situations. However, we fight against an interesting cultural understanding:

"We live in a world that assumes that the quality of a decision is directly related to the time and effort that went into making it." [p. 13]

Gladwell's argument is that decisions in the blink-of-an-eye can be just as good as those made deliberately over a longer period with more information. In fact, he argues that they can often be made better through the blink.


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