Malcolm Gladwell has become one of my favorite authors because he looks very deeply into the psychology of decision making. Last week I reviewed one of his earlier works, Tipping Point, and today I’ll give you my takeaways from his more recent title, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (disclosure: Amazon affiliate link).
The 3 Main Points Made In Blink
- “Decisions made very quickly can be every bit as good as decisions made cautiously and deliberately.”
- “When should we trust our instincts, and when should we be wary of them?” The book helps you understand that our instincts can misguide us, thus helping us know when to trust and when to question those instincts.
- “Our snap judgments and first impressions can be educated and controlled.” This is the crux of expertise. Experts can make a correct decision quickly and accurately because of training and experience. Intuition can be learned.
He presents many examples throughout the book to highlight these points, but I will only mention two. First, he cites a case where the Getty museum purchased a Greek kouros after 14 months of investigation. Scientific analysis and carefully tracing the documentation of the statue indicated that the statue was indeed authentic. However, nearly every expert in the field, upon first seeing the statue, called it a fake. They described their reactions very unscientifically, saying it looked too “fresh” or that they felt a wave of “intuitive repulsion.” Hardly enough to overturn the months-long analysis right? But those first impressions were more correct than the analysis as the kouros turned out to be a fake.
Secondly, he cites the efforts of Brendan Reilly at Cook County Hospital in Chicago starting in 1996. Reilly noticed that heart attack patients were resource-intensive and the method for diagnosing heart attacks was highly unreliable. Brendan found the research of a cardiologist from the 1970’s, Lee Goldman and began implementing a simple decision tree to diagnose heart attack patients. The tree utilized only 4 main criteria: the results of an ECG, is the pain felt by the patient unstable angina, is there fluid in the patient’s lungs and is the patient’s systolic blood pressure below 100. After two years of collecting data, this method proved 70% better at recognizing which patients were actually having a heart attack.
With the Greek kouros, the experts needed only a couple seconds to accurately determine its authenticity (despite the findings of a 14-month investigation). If you could ask your website visitors what they thought of your site after seeing it for only a few seconds, what would they say? Would they trust your site enough to make a purchase? Do they feel your site is spammy? Give it a try. Get 5 people who haven’t seen your website, let them look at it for a couple seconds and then ask them to give their first impressions. If you want more detailed info, hit up a service like UserTesting.com to get more info.
Lastly, Brendan Reilly was able to improve the ability of doctors to correctly diagnose a heart attack by giving them a method that SIMPLIFIED the process. Doctors go to school for years, have your entire medical history and can order hundreds of tests to make an accurate diagnosis. However, at a certain point the additional information actually made them worse at diagnosing heart attacks. How much information are you giving potential customers to “help” them make a decision? How many different choices do they have? Zero in on the factors that really matter and make the decision easier for your prospects.
What do you think?
PS Another book from Malcolm Gladwell that’s worth a read is Outliers: The Story of Success (disclosure: Amazon affiliate link), an interesting look at aberrations from the trend and what we can learn from them.