Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

April 18, 2013

blink Summary (from the publisher): Blink is a book about how we think without thinking, about choices that seem to be made in an instant-in the blink of an eye-that actually aren’t as simple as they seem. Why are some people brilliant decision makers, while others are consistently inept? Why do some people follow their instincts and win, while others end up stumbling into error? How do our brains really work-in the office, in the classroom, in the kitchen, and in the bedroom? And why are the best decisions often those that are impossible to explain to others?

In Blink we meet the psychologist who has learned to predict whether a marriage will last, based on a few minutes of observing a couple; the tennis coach who knows when a player will double-fault before the racket even makes contact with the ball; the antiquities experts who recognize a fake at a glance. Here, too, are great failures of “blink”: the election of Warren Harding; “New Coke”; and the shooting of Amadou Diallo by police.

Blink reveals that great decision makers aren’t those who process the most information or spend the most time deliberating, but those who have perfected the art of “thin-slicing”-filtering the very few factors that matter from an overwhelming number of variables.

Liked:

  • The beginning of the book was quite intriguing. The topic was fun and engrossing, and I was immediately hooked.
  • I love Gladwell’s writing style. His prose is smart yet accessible, and he is highly skilled at relating anecdotes.

Disliked:

  • Some of the examples Gladwell chose for this book didn’t seem to fit with the concept of thin slicing. The one that stands out the most for me was the Kenna (musician) example. According to Gladwell, Kenna’s music should be popular, but it’s not. To me, this appears to have more to do with personal taste than thin slicing. After all, we listen to songs we like over and over again, so a first split-second reaction to Kenna wouldn’t necessarily translate to long-term popularity.
  • Gladwell doesn’t offer much of a conclusion to the book, either from experts or from himself. The overriding premise seems to be that we should trust our snap judgments and not get bogged down with too much information or analysis prior to making big decisions. But the author freely admits that this approach doesn’t work all the time. So…what was his point again?

Rating:

While Blink by Malcolm Gladwell was as readable and entertaining as you’d expect a book from this author to be, it doesn’t pack the same punch as The Tipping Point or even Outliers. Plus, Blink gets bogged down with some uninteresting anecdotes towards the end, which diminshes its overall impact. Still, I give this one 3 stars out of 5.

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