Snap Judgments

As I post this, I’m listening to the podcast review of Blink over at Pop Goes The Culture. The review echos what a lot of the dissenters of Blink are saying – there’s nothing in the book that’s not common sense. However, they admit that Malcom Gladwell packages the ideas well. At his web site he specifically says he doesn’t use the term intuition. OK. Snap judgments, then.

(Meanwhile the podcast drones on, making the same point from every possible angle. Ah, for the early days of the punks, who made their point and got off stage. At the end of the podcast, they promise another “controversial” topic .. as opposed to thought-provoking, entertaining or informative I suppose.)

I liked The Tipping Point and even recommended it, although the concept of “tipping point” wasn’t a lot more than what one often refers to as “critical mass.” I haven’t read Blink so don’t have any opinion about it. But given what I’ve previously read from Mr. Gladwell (in the New Yorker, or at his web site), I suspect I’d like the book. I like his fresh approach to topics, even if it’s little more than chewing gum for the mind. Not every book needs to break new ground.

Nevertheless, it’s interesting to consider how we do make decisions, especially when it comes to business. Most people in business feel that they need mounds of data before making a big decision. If the data is inconclusive, perhaps we need a new model, a new viewpoint, or more data. But in many cases, the decision can’t be made with data alone, because there are too many variables, the data is unavailable, or the model is too difficult to produce. So we “explore”, perhaps with some visualizations. We’re good at pattern matching, and our brains are naturally drawn to repetition, symmetry, and contrast.

But sometimes, all the analysis in the word doesn’t provide a clear-cut answer. Sometimes we need to go with our gut. The trick is knowing when we need more data, and when we don’t.

Snap Judgments