Christopher Nolan’s film Inception was inarguably one of the best films of 2010. I found its exploration of the human mind to be especially fascinating. Despite much controversy over certain story elements (was he dreaming at the end?) and the plot holes that readily become apparent because of such debate (for example, the Mombassa scene), it was still an extraordinarily entertaining and thought-inducing film.
Maybe that’s why I like Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink so much: it looks at the incredible power of our subconscious and how split-second decisions can be just as, if not more, effective than collecting every possible piece of information and making decisions from this data. Perhaps the Inception-Blink connection is a bit of a stretch–I agree that it’s definitely not a perfect analogy–but I couldn’t help but be reminded of the film every time Gladwell remarked on the fascinating capabilities of our subconscious.
The book’s opening example involves an ancient statue at a California museum. For fourteen months, experts from a wide variety of fields–historians, lawyers, art people, et cetera–looked over every possible detail of the statue, from core samples of its materials to the paperwork documenting its discovery, extraction of the ground, and history of ownership. All of this information showed that the statue was in fact real, an authentic piece that had endured in near-mint condition for centuries.
However, matters turned out to not be so rosy. The museum brought in another group of experts right around the time of the statue’s grand first showing. Within literally the first couple of seconds following its unveiling, this new group of experts declared that something about the statue was just not quite right. Further research, driven based on these sudden bursts of intuition, ultimately showed that the statue’s paperwork had all been forged and the work of art was actually an elaborate fake.
Gladwell goes into much more depth with this and many other examples, showing how, when people know how to listen to their subconscious, some of the best decisions can be made in an instant without spending hours, days, or even years mulling over the details.
So, why do I feel the urge to talk about this book here?
One example in the book that especially caught my attention involved military leadership. As this is a role that I will be fulfilling upon graduation and for some years thereafter, it especially piqued my interest. I won’t go into the specifics of this example–you really ought to just get the book for yourself (only $7.28 on Amazon at the time of this writing, and I don’t even get an endorsement for that!)–but it absolutely made me recognize the necessity of quick, rapid-fire thinking in leadership positions.
This is of course also applicable to the business world. While I am still learning much about this frontier, it has for some time been quite clear to me that effective leaders must be able to act with speed, efficiency, and accuracy in order to succeed.
I absolutely recommend this book. I’ve already started reading something else that will make an excellent article here. Following that, however, I already have another title in mind: Think!: Why Crucial Decisions Can’t Be Made in the Blink of an Eye by Michael R. LeGault. From the reviews that I’ve read, it seems as though it won’t demolish the validity of Blink but rather encourage decision making from both perspectives.
As stated above, find Blink on Amazon.
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