Thursday, June 16, 2005

BLINK

Just finished reading Malcolm Gladwell's recent book, Blink; this is a follow-up, of sorts, to his wildly successful The Tipping Point. I always think Malcolm is worth reading as he has this habit of creatively linking all sorts of marginally related research themes. It's quirky. And for someone who has spent too many years in academic research mode, I find his conceptual strings of logic interesting on one hand and yet maddening because on occasion he makes BIG leaps.


In Blink he strings together a number of different socio-psychological research themes into an interesting thematic on how we understand and then react to information, individuals and environments in instant ways. Gladwell takes research from both the academic and marketing worlds and demonstrates that people do something called "thin-slicing". And we are either very good at it -- can make the best use out of the most important pieces of information and get to a powerful solution -- or not so good -- think of the worst possible outcomes; innocent people that are dead at the hands of happy finger cops and an intractable war in the Middle East. In the process we learn about marriage communication (avoid contempt); the fact that our faces display over 3000 facial expressions that have some meaning; the importance of white space; the music industries' market sampling strategy (Kenna is good) ; war games and more.

In my opinion the most interesting and brilliant section of the book is Chapter 4. With the intentionally ironic title, Paul Van Riper's Big Victory; Creating Structure for Spontaneity, the chapter delves into the very recent history of military strategy and war games. I'll leave it to future readers to find the irony.

To be honest, I'm not one to finish every book I pick up; the writing and ideas have to be compelling and not obviously redundant. So, as I dig into summer reading I'll post when I find something good, and when it's really bad, I'll post with the page the author lost me.


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