Read Complete Research Material





Among the many attributes desired in professional military officers is the ability to make extremely rapid decisions under conditions of extreme stress and peril, and for the highest imaginable stakes. Decisions may even have to be made in less time than is available consciously to weigh the alternatives and select a course of action. Although not unique--others, including doctors, law enforcement officials, and firefighters, face similar situations and under equivalent expectations--such demands are not a common part of most people's work experience.

In Blink Gladwell examines rapid, almost instantaneous, decision making--decisions made in the "blink of an eye." The book advances an intriguing and seductive proposition, that people can be trained to make nearly instantaneous decisions using minimal amounts of data and yet achieve remarkable percentages of successful outcomes. If reading Blink could produce such a result, the book would represent one of the most significant advances in the field of decision making in decades. Unfortunately, such is not the case (Goldberg, 2001).

Blink is not going to transform its readers into paragons of successful, instant decision makers, however much the dust-jacket hype might imply it will. However, this does not mean Blink should be completely written off. There are insights worth thinking about and lessons to be gleaned from Gladwell's work.


For the most part, Blink is an extremely reader-friendly volume. Gladwell introduces concepts and follows up with deeper illumination and understanding through a variety of well documented anecdotes. During the first half of the book, the author seems about to deliver on the implied promise of better decision making as he explains how some people seem to master what might be called the "art of snap decisions." He does this in graduated steps, providing convincing evidence for each component of his argument.

Drawing on data from a study of gambling, Gladstone demonstrates that decision making occurs in both the human conscious and the subconscious mind. The gambling study found that at least in some people subconscious decision making occurs more rapidly than conscious decision making. Blink also provides convincing evidence that distilling, rather than increasing, information may result in not only faster but better decision making. The combination of subconscious data processing and the use of very limited data is known as "thin-slicing," defined as "the ability of the unconscious to find patterns in situations based on very narrow slices of experience." A related illustrative anecdote comes from the medical community. Doctors have determined that confining an examination to four key observations results in significantly higher percentages of correct diagnosis of heart attack in the emergency room than do more comprehensive diagnostic protocols.

Blink identifies experience as another key component in the ability to make rapid and accurate decisions. Deep familiarity with one's subject, be it ancient Greek statues, professional tennis, marriage counseling, or, one may assume, battle displays, is an essential component to making correct fast decisions (Goldberg, 2001). To demonstrate this point Gladwell offers the example of Vic Braden, a noted tennis coach who apparently has a ...
Related Ads