I picked up the audiobook version of Malcolm Gladwell's Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (read by Gladwell himself).  It's interesting to "read" this book after seeing all the buzz about the book when it first came out in 2005.  The core idea is that our first impressions operate on a level of the mind which is not easily explained.

For people who know me, the discussion of how the brain works has fascinated me since my graduate studies in artificial intelligence.  This has led to my interest in knowledge management and it's led me down a number of related paths.  I enjoyed the wide variety of examples and the different ways that "thinking without thinking" arises in human interactions.  Applicability of the ideas range from product design to popular culture to marriage counseling to the makeup of an orchestra and beyond.

Reading this book almost requires that one jump into a heavily reflective mode of reading.  For example, as I listened to Gladwell read the book, I realized that I formed an impression of who he is that expanded what I thought of him from reading his other materials.  When he mentioned personal details, I realized that these didn't necessarily fit with the perception I had devised in my mind.  For the next few weeks, I suspect I will be monitoring my words and actions more closely to see whether I am revealing my own "blink" reactions to things.  And then I will wonder how those reactions became part of my makeup.

One thought in connection with blogging and participating in a larger community of bloggers.  In reading blogs over time, I have developed a sense of who lies behind the blog.  In terms of Blink, my impressions of the person behind their words and style has been set.  When I've had the opportunity to meet fellow bloggers, I have generally felt like these impressions are correct.  For some reason, I contrast this with email friends or friends that have developed through other virtual means.  I've met some people after long electronic correspondence over a specific topic only to find that we have nothing else in common.  Blink has me thinking that the way blogging works - individuals writing in their own space - is inherently different from one-to-one email or communication that is hosted in a shared space.  The result being that there are more personality markers in my space than I leave in the cafe down the street.  And over time, readers pick up on those personality cues, even if they aren't displayed intentionally. 

4 Comment(s)

Tammy said:

Read the Slate discussion between Gladwell & Surowiecki (who wrote Wisdom of Crowds). I was fortunate enough to read these books back to back and then discover this conversation. It added to my enjoyment of both books.

James Taylor Author Profile Page said:

The challenge exposed by Blink, or one of them at least, is the volume of contextual information to which we are exposed and which we must exploit to make good judgements. As technologist, merely presenting this information is increasingly not enough, we must process it to form useful judgments or suggest useful actions. This means turning it into insights using analytics and even making decisions based on it before expecting users to "blink" it.

I reviewed Blink here -

jackvinson Author Profile Page said:

James, This was a great aspect of the book. Information overload is not only frustrating, it can actually keep us from making decisions.

jackvinson Author Profile Page said:

Tammy - Thanks for this link to the discussion between Gladwell and Surowiecki. I just had the opportunity to read it, and it adds another level of detail - or reminds me of an aspect of Blink that I really enjoyed.

"Thin Slicing" or "Rapid Cognition" is something that happens for everyone. But we don't all know how to interpret the resulting information. And there are far too many opportunities for another part of our brains to overwhelm the Rapid Cognition part.

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