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Blink (Book Review)

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

In some ways I found Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking a little dry on the back of my tongue. In part, this fell back to having read earlier Gladwell articles and to be truthful Blink wasn’t a new concept for me entering at page one. That familiarity with the concept added to the discomfort I felt when it came to reading the book over a few short sittings. However, don’t take that as meaning Blink is unworthy in any way, ill-authored or vacuous. Entirely the opposite. Malcolm Gladwell, as always, has an elegant way of dancing around a group of sub-stories to build out a compelling case for the average person to rethink their world. That is his true value as a creative non-fiction author (slash journalist).

Thin slicing is something we all do and it’s probably what saved our ancestors when the barest glint of a shadow warned of an ambush by predators. Humans are hard-wired to make snap decisions about all manner of subjects from the barest of information. This is a part of what it means to be human. So when we meet someone at a dance and decide we want to know them we’re thin-slicing – what other option do we have? When the police see somebody acting shifty and stop them for questioning – again, thin slicing. There are huge numbers of these precarious moments in our daily lives when it’s appropriate to make thin-slicing two-second-judgements about complex situations.

In Blink, Malcolm Gladwell reveals a series of examples to show how this thin-slicing by the subconscious acts as a two-second-judge-and-jury. His fundamental idea behind Blink is to explore when thin-slicing is appropriate and leads to superior outcomes versus those situations where complex investigation and thought are critical to achieve success. Understanding the difference can play an important role in our human effort to overcome personal biases and discrimination.

Ultimately, you don’t want to let a stranger into your home when that thin-slice is hammering at you because of their negative micro-expressions… but you do want to be thoroughly sure about other things like picking the best person for a job. Malcolm Gladwell points a finger squarely at businesses who need to review their hiring processes and rethink established methodologies for assessing the people they advance into upper management. Why are the majority of CEOs in Fortune 500 companies tall? Why is there a glass ceiling? How is Human Resource Management being performed within our organisations?

So, while I found Blink a little hard-going, it was no less poignant and precisely written as any other of Gladwell’s masterpieces. He grabs a subject in long literary fingers, spins them in the web of a truly accomplished wordsmith and leaves us with a glut of satisfied envy after the feast. The effort in pulling this book together is impressive.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark (aka nortypig) and I live in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a photographer making pictures with film. A web developer for money. A business consultant for fun. A journalist on paper. Dreams of owning the World. Idea champion. Paradox. Life partner to Megan.

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