Thursday, August 25, 2011

Can you make good decisions?

At the recommendation of  @stualred I've just read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. It's a storytelling exploration of decision making, of "thinking without thinking".

 Gladwell considers that we can make good decisions based on very thin slices of information - if we know what we're looking for (finding out might take enormous amounts of research - something Stu's Rugby coaching Dad has done for his PhD).

But we don't always get those moments right...
  • Sometimes we have too much information - drowning out what we actually need to see.  This is compellingly illustrated from the case of a hospital discovering that three questions could help them work out who needed immediate care for risk of a heart attack, for example.
  • Sometimes we develop an "in the moment autism" that stops us from reading the situation. So, in the moment we might get it wrong because of the heat of the moment. We choke. Whether sportsmen or policemen caught in a tense situation.
  • Sometimes our subconscious biases blind us. As when Orchestra's used to consistently overlook female musicians until a screen hid this at audition - then numbers rose. Are job interviews fair? Is justice really blind? For right or wrong first impressions are very significant.

For me it raised lots of questions for the work I'm doing among University students, to introduce them to Jesus. I'm faced with leadership decisions in my work.
  • Do I have the information to make them rightly?
  • Am I able to read the thin slice of information I need to do that well? 
  • What moments throw my instincts in the air and stop me making the right calls? 
  • Where do I have information overload that drowns out what matters? Myers-Briggs tells me I'm extreme on the Intuition side of the scale - as opposed to Sensing (INTP though almost an ENTP fwiw).
  • How can I grow in being me - but also avoid blindspots? 
  • What about the context we set as a team, church or CU at the front door, at the first point of contact - are people able to make a good decision or are there things we do that distrupt that unhelpfully?
  • What about the way I supervise my staff - what are the key questions I need to be asking them to serve them well when I'm with them? They don't tell me everything about everything - and they don't need to - but what information do I need to get an accurate picture of the work, and more importantly how they are? What are the different questions for the different people?
  • To what extent does the six page monthly review my staff omplete really get to the information that matters? Does it serve them and me, or does it fail to get to the heart?
  • How can I equip young evangelists to not choke in the situations they face - whether conversationally or in public debate?
  • How can I equip young leaders to analyse situations well - to capture the right information and not to choke the opportunity they're called to whether as a member of my team or as a student missions leader? 
  • How as friends, colleagues and partners in the gospel should we respond when 'in the moment' we make the wrong decisions? How can we lavish grace upon one another, forgive, comfort and advance together?
And what are the theological implications / theological perspectives on this issue?
  • I know that I'm prone to fallibility and bias and discrimination because I'm curved in on myself - how can the grace of God overcome that? How does being in Christ shape my relationships?
  • How can I love people better? 
  • Am I just my decisions? 
Blink is a helpful "look at self" resource, one not to live by but one which can be a helpful tool alongside ten looks to Christ.

Have you read it? Your thoughts? Questions? Answers?


  1. I think that one implication might be when you are hiring people. Perhaps trying to spot people who are able to make good fast decisions, but also know when to make slow ones...

    Or, when you are answering someone's theological/practical question, just taking a moment to let all the possibilities run before your mind. Let you intuitions run riot. It's part imagination, and part crazy. Then ask some questions and take a punt towards what you think you are getting from them. It can be amazingly accurate.

  2. Care to expand on some examples of how you've done this? Say one of you asking a question and one of you answering. I think I see what you're getting at but concrete examples are so helpful to have.

  3. Doesn't that undermine the principle of Blink Bish?

  4. Um, No.
    He argues that these are things to learn.

    When a hospital learns that only three questions are needed to determine whether someone needs treating for a heart attack - takes some research and serious thinking to figure which questions....

    Helping us see how you do it will help us learn how... just as Gladwell basically spends his whole book giving examples of how it happens.