I was eagerly waiting for the next book from Malcolm Gladwell, the author of best seller “The tipping point”. After his first book which contained ideas about Viral Marketing that were lucidly portrayed, there was a great buzz in the industry and marketing circles about his next book – Blink. I got a chance to read the book when one of my friends presented to me as a gift. Actually I never expected it to read so early after it’s publishing, as it would ideally long time for some of the books to get to the Indian Book stores.

The first thing that attracts any person who picks the book is the cover. It is so elegant, and that it gave me an impression that the ideas inside the book would also be that elegant. However, that turned out to be false. Probably I had very high expectations from the book. My first impression, my blink about “Blink” was wrong. Now you might be wondering what does my Blink about Blink mean.
Let me explain!

Blink, in the words of the author is that impression which a person comes to, in the first 2 seconds of his/ her interaction with a product, person, etc. i.e. any aspect of life. The book quotes umpteen number of examples which goes to say that one can deduce in a blink a lot more than zillions of data and number crunching . It also says that there are a number of times when we blindly believe the opinion formed in the first few seconds and then take a wrong decision. The obvious question is “When should we trust our instincts and when should we be wary of them? “The author goes on to say that there is a tremendous power in blink and there are ways in which the power can be honed in any individual. This is explained in the third part of his book where he says that the unconsciousness 2 seconds from which we draw a conclusion can be can be educated and controlled using proper experience and environment

How do we draw conclusions from a blink?
Thin Slicing refers to the ability of our consciousness to find patterns in situations and behavior based on very narrow slices of experience. So with in the few slices of information we can sift through the situation in front of us, throwing out all that is irrelevant while we zero in on what really matters.

The above paragraph sums up the book. I could stop here, but I won’t be doing justice to this book review if I do not include some brilliant examples in the book

One example is about a kouros(statue) which is sold to a museum and the Museum management sees to it that kuros is authentic by conducting a whole set of tests and then confirm after rigorous scientific testing that kouros is indeed an authentic one. However after a few years, a curator from Italy comes and sees the kouros and says that there is something wrong with the statue. This he concludes within the first few seconds of viewing. The management gets a doubt and starts looking out for top notch people who have a passion for collecting art forms and invites them to their Museum. Suddenly a lot of people start claiming that the kouros is not authentic and there is something wrong with the statue, however they cannot explain what is it that is exactly wrong? Meanwhile the management also finds that a few of the documents which were originally given by the seller of the statue are misleading. The debate as to whether it is a genuine statue or not rages to this day.
If you walk in to J.Paul Getty Museum in California even today, you will find this against the statue – “Kouros – about 530 BC or a modern forgery!”

Second example that illustrates the point is that it is possible to actually educate and improvise blink power is that of Gottman, who spent a lot of time doing research on couples and their propensity to get divorced with in 5 years. He used to conduct experiments where he used to call couples in to a room and asked them to discuss on anything. He used to videotape 15 minute conversations and then check out for various emotions, facial expressions, body language, words used in their conversation. He then developed a code where a very few variables could decide the strength of a marriage. He honed his system with a lot more experiments and came to such a stage that he could just overhear a conversation in a coffee shop and predict whether a couple would stay together or not.

Now this is an example which clearly says in a decision making process, frugality matters. For any decision making, usually there is a lot of information and one tends to be overwhelmed by it. But it is only a few variables that are vital. Looks like the Pareto Principle.

There are some examples where the decisions based on blink go awry. The author calls it Warren Harding Error. Once, Warren Harding, a lawyer and lobbyist for the US senate saw a newspaper editor Harry Daugherty and in a fraction of a second decided that he had the poise, elegance and possibly everything to become the PRESIDENT OF USA. Indeed Harry Daugherty with a lot of help and luck did become President, but his tenure ended in 2 years and is known to be the worst president of USA.

What went wrong?
Snap Judgments are quick, unconscious; rely on thinnest slice of experience. Unless one educates these, they result in a disaster. Pepsi – Cola Sip test is a classic example where despite people favoring Pepsi against Cola, nothing happened to the sales of Pepsi.

The only interesting part I found about the book was the Story Telling Problem
That is clearly illustrated by the author using several examples. It means that
by articulating, verbalizing, there is a chance that there is a distortion from the decision that comes from snap judgments. In most of the market surveys that are done on innovative products and services ,which the customers have not been exposed before, the author urges the surveyors to take the responses using a mere yes/no or a binary type of question response that asking reasons for their likes or dislikes

The best example I found among all was the chair called Aeron which was made by Herman Miller. It was a truly innovative chair which the industry had not seen before. The market survey indicated that it scored very low on aesthetics.
However the company, instead of tinkering with the design went ahead and launched the product. The chair created a sensation in the industry. This is one of the instances where once can see the story telling problem .We as humans sometimes do not know how to verbalize the snap judgment and when we try to do it, we infect come up with a completely different judgment. In the words of author” We should be ready to accept sometimes that we know with out knowing why we know”

I am reader of Goldratt’s Management Philosophy where he says verbalizing gut feel is very difficult. He then goes on show some techniques which can be used to verbalize gut feel so a lot of thoughts can be structured. In a book called “ Its not Luck “ , a technique called Cloud technique is repeatedly used to drive home this point that verbalizing gut feel can be an effective tool to negotiation issues. But after reading Blink where the author says people have story telling problem, I feel how really difficult it is to use Goldratt’s techniques.

Overall, I feel “Blink” was a let down for me personally, especially after reading his excellent book “Tipping Point”. However one thing I am really amazed about the book is the wide ranging examples the author quotes to drive home his point about Blink

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