…take-a-ways from gladwell’s blink…

Is there a more beautiful example of a snap judgement?  This is the gift of training and expertise – the ability to extract an enormous amount of meaningful information from the very thinnest slice of experience.  To a novice, that incident would have gone by in a blur.  But it wasn’t a blur at all.  Every moment – every blink – is composed of a series of discrete moving parts, and every one of those parts offers an opportunity for intervention, for reform, and for correction.  Gladwell’s Blink p.241

The above quote was the final paragraph in a piece about a Police Officer who, in the moment, decided not to shoot a young offender who pulled a gun.  This is a powerful paragraph on its own.  Yet, in my mind, it is also serves as a fitting summary for Blink.  In understanding and trusting our instantaneous responses to stimuli, [in addition to Police Officers, Gladwell references Firefighters, Improv Teams, even Voters] we must move towards self-reflection and self-training to best partner with our impulse thoughts leading to decisions.

This is my first 20-in-’12/’13 book review…and I even hesitate to call it a review.  Really, it is not a review.  My reviews will not be exhaustive.  They are not a replacement for the book.  Rather, they are my quick take on what stuck out in my mind.  It’s a flashback for what was meaningful to me.  Please hear me – right or wrong – they are my take-a-ways.


Here are my thoughts:

  • This is my 4th Gladwell book.  He is currently my favourite author.  I really enjoy his journalistic style – I hear him developing stories – people’s stories – retelling them in a way that makes me curious and involved.  He has made me more eager to listen to people’s stories – he has reminded me that there is always a back-story to what’s going on.
  • Can / Should I trust my ‘thin slices’?  [thin slices are the ever-so-quick moments we take to size things up, to survey, to judge, to decide]
  • Subconscious thought & judgements – Gladwell calls this thinking from ‘behind the locked door’.  How quick is my subconscious to rise up and take over…and is it accurate or is it ignorant?
  • The Warren Harding Error (Chapter 3) – interesting chapter about why tall CEOs make more than shorter ones, racism and prejudice, and what Gladwell calls ‘the dark side of  thin slicing‘.  Gladwell concludes this chapter with, “Taking rapid cognition seriously – acknowledging the incredible power, for good and ill, that first impressions play in our lives – requires that we take active steps to manage and control those impressions” p97-98.  As I reflected on this chapter I couldn’t help but wonder if I am the victim of a Warren Harding error – if I have the ‘thin slice’ appeal but have no long-lasting power, vision, drive, and finish.
  • Gladwell shares Classical music’s move to ‘blind’ auditions, for them to ‘listen with their eyes’…  In the Notes, Gladwell recommends further reading on this topic as told by a musician’s husband.
  • In the Acknowledgements, Gladwell admits the origin of Blink was how he was treated as he grew his hair long…and how he started to get into trouble…

Finally, as is the new medium, here is my Twitter Summary:

First impressions & gut reactions, though valid, are not always true. Thin slice: subconscious speaks loudly. Training & experience is key.


3 thoughts on “…take-a-ways from gladwell’s blink…

  1. dramaticscience

    Brilliant book, and helped me accept that feeling I get when assessing and translating assessments to summative marks: “It’s an 80%, I know it, even if my rubric says it’s a 76% — so I have to change my rubric…” I use the expert learning graph (as I call it) quite often with laypersons in all kinds of different situations.

    1. eduglean Post author

      Hi, Tom. Thanks for sharing how you have applied Gladwell’s thinking into your own experience.

      Yes, the more I really ‘listen’ to my inner thinking and quick reactions the more I am reminded of this book. I’ve also really started to consciously analyze my first take on situations or data – trying to figure out what is behind my impressions.

      Fun times!

  2. Pingback: …take-a-ways from gladwell’s blink… – HCS Learning Commons

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