Book Review:Blink

Do not crowd the issue with facts. Nine out of ten statistics are wrong.(Including this one.) We could go on and on. Can we make the best judgement calls when we have too much information? Not according to Malcolm Gladwell, the author of blink.

In 'Tipping Point' Gladwell presented a theory where a small spark creates a massive fire in several unrelated fields. This time, in Blink, he take on, in my opinion a more ambitious undertaking. He tries to explain how in many circumstances a snap decision can be far better than one made with massive quantities of data and too much research.

As with his previous work, he cites numerous examples to illustrate his point.Here are a few:

A couple of experts in a museum had a 'hunch' that a statue acquired by the museum was a fake despite the fact that many others had scrutinized it in great detail, even under the eye of an electron microscope.A hospital official at the Cook's County hospital came up with an algorithm on handling a deluge of patients who were at a risk of a heart attack. The algorithm picked out the patients at a greater risk at a much better rate than the doctors who had years of experience in treating such patients.Gladwell analyzes in great detail how experienced policemen make a better judgement call about the imminent danger they face when they confront someone on the street. The younger ones on the force are impulsive and make snap judgements based on inherent biases that often lead to disatrous consequences.The famous Cola wars are another example of market research gone awry. In a taste test, most people preferred Pepsi to Coke. The Coke company created another Cola that was closer in taste to Pepsi. It was a disaster causing coke to loose millions of dollars. It turned out that while Pepsi won the taste test, Coke won out when one had to choose to drink a whole can.
At MIT, we would call Gladwell a great Systems thinker as he has the ability to explain his views on several types of 'Systems'. His theory that we must apply the detail analysis approach to smaller problems and the blink methodology to more complex problems sounds a bit suspect to me. Having said that, I think this is a book that must be required reading for the SDM program that I completed at MIT, simply because it gives another perspective on decision making. Gladwell's writing is always interesting, rich with examples and keeping the reader waiting for the theory to unfold.

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