Evening at Zambezi River, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, May 2015
and so does everything around... the situation, the people, the perspective, the needs.... and we too change.... the wise and courageous seek change.. because only change is constant!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

32. blink

I am not able to tell you how I rate this book and I am not sure whether I recommend it. :) I have taken an incredibly long time to finish just 254 pages. This clearly indicates that I did not “love” this book. But I did not give up in between … that means it was ok.
It is a story of ups and downs. If you are talking in terms of IBC (Introduction, Body and Closure) I would say it began well, in the middle was ok and the closure was disappointing.

Some books are badly written; some books are well written; and some books are cleverly written. I could not help feeling that ‘Blink’ by Malcolm Gladwell is cleverly written. May be, Malcolm’s journalistic background has taught him to write cleverly.

What if somebody starts you telling human interest stories – about how someone used ‘thin slicing’ to arrive at a right decision when a team of scientists with all their logical thinking was proven wrong? Naturally you would be interested… Deep inside, we all hate logic because we are bound by it in routine life. So, the defeat of logic, the defeat of formulas, and the defeat of well set mechanisms pleases us.

To his credit, Malcolm Gladwell makes use of human psychology very effectively. First he tells us the grand success of ‘thin slicing’ – which we normally call ‘first impression’ and later moves on to tell us how it does not work in all situations. (Clever balancing act!) He writes about Warren Harding – the worst USA President – (I believe Gladwell will have to change this after the Bush regime…) and informs us how ‘snap judgment’ can run into a disaster.

Gladwell is a good story teller. He narrates various experiments which study human behavior – human relationships, human biases, human inclinations … which we are not consciously aware of. Gladwell talks about ‘priming for action’ – how our subconscious takes suggestions and our decisions are based on those involuntary suggestions. We all are driven by gender, racial, class, caste,… many biases, though we are hardly aware of those.

Gladwell talks about getting ‘below the surface’, ‘behind the locked door’ – the processes triggering snap decisions – and assures us that we can change our perspective by changing our experiences. Here Gladwell is motivating.

John Gottman’s invites couples in his “Love Lab” to discuss some topics for few minute and almost accurately predicts whether this couple will be divorced or not after 15 years. Samuel Gosling conducted an experiment where he judged people’s personalities through visit to their bedroom by strangers. Bob Golomb is very successful car salesman because he has trained himself not to be driven by biases. Van Riper surprised American militaries while playing a rogue in computerized Millennium Challenge game (mock war on computers – based on which USA decides war strategies).

You name an area, and a related story is there in the book. Psychology, Sports, Music, War, Food, Beverage, Advertising, Films, Crime, even Politics … every type of example is nicely packed together.

Gladwell elaborates what happens when market research overtakes instincts. There is a story of a singer Kenna, whom market is not accepting though all those who have ‘ear’ for music ‘instantly’ like him. There is also story of ‘Pepsi challenge’ to Cola, which Cola mis-interpreted. For me the most exciting story is of Tomkins, who could “read” faces correctly: and how Emkins and his team worked hard to come out with thousand of configurations of face muscles – which can lead to ‘read mind’ rightly.

But at the end, I asked myself, ‘Hey, what is this guy trying to tell me?” Honestly, I was left clueless. First he tells positive side of ‘thin slicing’, then he explains ‘how it does not work’, then he moves on to elaborate how it is difficult to explain the instinct (market research goes wrong here), how blind tests have both the aspects, how disaster happens …. I mean it was interesting and all that…. but why take a position of a scientist when you are entertaining (and the other way round)? Why make a mystery of a common power which everybody has at some or the other time in life (but not always)? Why make a theory of a power, which one cannot explain logically?

Oops….. I need to blink!


  1. Hiiiiiiiiiiii
    I Read Your Blog...
    It's AMAZING and NICE.


  2. i remember the cover page to be white... how come it is greenish here?

  3. I wonder how can you write so much about 'the' book you 'did not like'. If I do not like a book, I would forget it as quickly as possible.


  4. Thanks Gautam.... hope u read to continue the blog.

    Anonymous, oh, the book cover is white only... i have taken the photograph in the night with my mobile ... may be that is the reason.

    Nutan, I agree, the best way would be to forget what I did not like.


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