Don’t Blink

2 min read

Blink was touted as one of those “must read” business books. It is written by Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, which was brilliant and I recommend highly. Blink however was not so impressive. It is one of many books that is essentially a compilation of stories which, presumably, support the author’s thesis.

Gladwell relied heavily on the anecdotes – so much so that they frequently had little to do with the author’s point. so what was the point? People make split decisions. This can be good or bad. There is a lot of information available to a person on which to base his decision in an instant however she may choose the wrong data in the heat of the moment.

Well who can argue with that? You can do something It can be good or bad. You may be right or wrong.

The problem with basing your arguments on anecdotes is that anecdotes may be manipulated and are certainly not objective. Frank Serpico (the Frank Serpico) wrote a letter to Gladwell which underlines this point. One of the examples used of “bad decisions made in the heat of the moment” (cop thought there was a gun and shot) could in fact be a calculated decision later retold in favourable light for the perpetrators (cop was shaking down an innocent black man).

The closing story on Abbie Conant is also manipulated somewhat: the author implies that the sexism on the part of the Munich Philharmonic was not overt – they genuinely believe women are physically incapable of playing the trombone well. Abbie tells her own story here and it is clear that the discrimination she faced went beyond a misunderstanding of the abilities of women. The orchestra hired her on the basis of a screened audition before they realised she was female. When they discovered their “error” they were openly hostile, verbally abusive and refused to pay her in line with other musicians. This has nothing to do with subconcious attitudes that affect decision making: it was a case of blatant, well practiced discrimination (a practice carried on by the Vienna Philharmonic).

Blink is an interesting collection of stories but ultimately has little substance.