Monday, February 19, 2007

Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell (Back Bay Books, 2005)

OK, so I got a little reading in over the weekend. And I happened to sit down with the pop-psych hit of last year, Blink.

As a treatise, Blink is fundamentally flawed. Gladwell's assertion that intuition needs to be more valued is undermined by Gladwell's own anecdotes, and while he seems to be aware of that, it is something he does not adequately address.

But what makes it a worthwhile read is not the question of how much we should treasure or doubt our intuition. What makes worthwhile is two things:

a) the discussion of less being more when it comes to analysis, and

b) the discussion of how unaware people are when it comes to understanding what influences their decision

It may fail as a treatise, but it works wonderfully well as a compendium of counterexamples to what we think we know about human decision making. This invariably intersects with questions we deal with on a daily basis. Does it make sense to ask students what they would like to see on a college admissions site (Short answer: No). Should we listen to what kids tell us they like in terms of the look of the site? (Nope).

What the book really drives home is how detached our perception of our decision-making process is from our actual decision making process, and how simple models can become once you filter out the noise. For anyone in marketing, that is a helpful lesson. Expect me to quote it here ad nauseum...

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