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Blink

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Written by
Malcolm Gladwell

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell is a book that examines the decisions we make from brief and contextual snapshots to mountains of data and information. He argues that quick and intuitive thinking can be just as good, or even better, as deliberate and thought-out decisions.

Main Ideas

We are used to complicated charts, datasheets, and consulting many different people of their opinions to make decisions. The experiments and stories that Blink showcases make us question this belief. Gladwell writes that we fail to rely on a handy back up system, called "thin-slicing." This secret system that runs under our radar makes quick and accurate judgments by editing out useless information and recognizing patterns from brief experiences.

Summary Notes

On learning

  • Learning works by gathering experiences, reflecting on them, finding the commonalities between thoughts, and then putting everything together.
  • Insight is not a lightning bolt that comes out of nowhere. It takes effort to keep a candle always flickering to make associations in our minds between thoughts, experiences, and previous knowledge.

On making decisions

  • The quality of our decisions does not correlate with the time and energy it takes to make it.
  • Choices we make quickly can be as correct as the decisions we make carefully and intentionally.
  • There are two methods to make a decision. Technique one, or as Gladwell calls it, "the conscious strategy," is where you think long and thoroughly about what you learned from data and other sources to come up with an answer. It's a logical but heavy process that can take multiple steps and multiple days.
  • Method two, or "the adaptive unconscious," is a quick system our brain uses to reach conclusions by operating below the surface of consciousness. We can't immediately pick up on this decision because the brain sends messages through unusual channels we don't usually notice, like sweat glands in the palms of our hands.
  • Improving the judgments you make comes with allowing part of the process to remain secret. "[...] it is possible to know without knowing why we know and accept that— sometimes— we're better off that way. "
  • We like the numbers and the charts because when someone asks why we made that choice, we can point to a number. But the best decisions require no explanations because they provide no certainty.
  • Thus, we try to explain things we don't have explanations for.
  • Making decisions requires a focus on what truly matters and editing out the rest. Charts that show all the metrics are just as useful as blank graphs.
  • We think we are in control of all of our choices, but really, the way we think and act heavily relies on external factors at the moment.

On experts

  • Experts who have studied their field for so long can sometimes fail to look beyond the in-depth expertise and trust their gut to make simple conclusions.
  • The expert can comprehend each movement, change, and alteration from the blink of an eye.

On thin slicing

  • “Thin-slicing” refers to the ability of our unconscious to find patterns in situations and behavior based on very narrow slices of experience.”
  • Thin slicing allows us to eliminate the information clutter and quickly recognize patterns.

On first impressions

  • First impressions are controllable.
  • We can change our impressions by changing the experiences that make up those impressions.
  • Experience decodes first impressions.
  • When tasked with making similar decisions every day, we can find stable patterns in human behavior to allow us to come to rapid conclusions.

On simplifying

  • Simplifying and breaking apart makes intricate systems lose their meaning. Sometimes, we need to embrace the difficulty and zoom out instead of taking a magnifying glass and breaking entities into useless parts.

On extra information

  • Extra information is harmful. To understand complex problems, you only need to understand the foundational ideas.
  • Additional data and knowledge make us feel assured, but it is this confidence that blocks our ability to notice the problems with our solution.
  • When you go out for a run, you don't need to understand the direction of the wind, the dew point, or the air pressure. You need to know the forecast. Will it rain? Or will it be sunny? If you focus on everything, you "drown in the data."

Who Should Read This Book

Blink encourages readers to make conclusions for themselves based on experiments, interviews, and stories used in the book. If you don't like reading about scientific trials and personal narratives, this book is not for you. There is no definitive conclusion or actionable advice. Instead, it's more like a dialogue, pondering both sides of an opinion without making definite assertions. However, if detailed research, tests, and trials excite you, this will be the perfect book for you.

Buy it on Amazon

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