Libro 31 + 32/52 :: Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman + A Very Short Tour of the Mind by Michael Corballis

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“Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.”

– Henry Ford

 

We’ve come to the “Thinking about Thinking” portion of the Libro 52 Challenge. Pairing these 2 books back-to-back wasn’t planned, but they complemented each other well.

 

Three quick facts:

  1. Your brain is lazy.
  2. Your brain has 2 systems – or 2 modes of operation.
  3. You can improve your thinking through awareness of Facts 1 & 2.

 

Have you ever looked back at some of your decisions and thought, “What was I thinking?

Right.

 

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman can help you be more thoughtful about your thoughts and mindful about your mind.

 

Thinking is a deep dive into the 2 parts of the brain. No, not the left and right hemispheres. The 2 methods with which our brains function: System 1 (fast) and System 2 (slow).

 

System 1 is the brain’s lightning-fast response mechanism.

It responds immediately, without much processing power. System 1 is automatic.

Intuition – which is nothing more than a memory reflex – is System 1.

Emotion is System 1.

 

System 2 requires more effort. If I ask you to solve a math problem like 43 x 17, this requires System 2. There are multiple System 2 steps involved, unless you immediately respond, “I dunno. 500?

That’s System 1 speaking for you.

 

And that’s the problem.

System 1 often runs the show when System 2’s skills are required.

 

System 1 will also substitute an easy question for a harder System 2 question. This is known as a heuristic. When we are confronted with cognitively complex question, System 1 will over-ride System 2 and substitute an easier question that can be answered via intuition, gut reaction, a rule of thumb, or the illusion of common sense.

In short, our brains are lazy.

They take the easiest route if we let them.

We let intuition and emotion (System 1) answer challenging questions that require more deliberate cognitive gear-grinding (System 2).

 

To make better decisions, we need to understand when System 1 is butting out System 2 to our detriment. We can then slow down and bench System 1 in favor of System 2.

 

 

The book Moneyball by Michael Lewis (and subsequent movie with Brad Pitt) is a great example of System 1 vs. System 2.

 

The old-school baseball scouts intuitively knew what a future major leaguer looked like. Despite being wrong far more than being right, these System 1 scouts scoffed at the usage of System 2 mathematical reasoning to drive personnel decisions.

 

Then the Ivy League nerds came along and let System 2 handle the cognitive thought – more wins!

We’re lazy. We use System 1 when we should be using System 2.

This happens every day in hiring decisions.

 

Important Question

New hire candidate Amy made some really odd comments in the interview about her thoughts on teamwork and accountability. What evidence do we have that she will work cohesively with our high-performing Marketing team? 

Important Question Answer: None.

 

Substitute Question

Is she cute and did she go to a good university?

Substitute Question Answer: Yes and yes.

 

Result

Hired!

 

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Kahneman notes how we frequently tend to over estimate the predictability of the world we live in. We rationalize the world around us every day. Only when we are aware we’re doing this can we counteract it.

Kahneman certainly makes psychology interesting. The discussions on how we perceive intuition, determine choices and arrive at conclusions is fascinating… and perplexing… and a bit frightening.

 

Bottom Line: At 500+ pages, Thinking is a commitment. Probably more of a commitment than necessary. This is a book every manager should read, so I’d recommend reading the first 250 pages and then skim the remainder, looking for relevant stories that catch your eye.

 

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A Very Short Tour of the Mind by Michael Corballis is just that. At 100 pages, this book consists of 21 short chapters on topics ranging from why Italians use so many hand gestures, the “Only 10% of Our Brain” fallacy, language acquisition, and why we “bullshit ourselves” so frequently.

It’s a fun read you can take down a few pages at a time on bathroom breaks alone, if you’re into that sort of thing.

 

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Bottom Line: Fun little book on thinking about thinking, but has little of the business world application of Thinking, Fast and Slow.

 

 

Bradley Hartmann is El Presidente at Red Angle (www.redanglespanish.com). He’s trying to read 52 books this year. He’s behind at the moment, but catching up.

 

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LIBRO 52 Challenge YTD

1. Kennedy/Nixon by Chris Matthews

2. Poke the Box by Seth Godin

3. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn 

NA. Buy-In by John Kotter and Lorne Whitehead

4. Education of an Accidental CEO by David Novak

5. Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

6. Blood, Brains and Beer by David Ogilvy

7. Lyndon Johnson :: Master of the Senate by Robert Caro

8. 1776 by David McCullough

9. To Sell Is Human by Dan Pink

NA. Profiles In Courage by JFK*

10. Write It When I’m Gone by Tom DeFrank

11. FDR by Jean Edward Smith

12. The Cluetrain Manifesto by Locke, Searls, Weinberger + Levine

13. One Click by Richard Brandt

14. Persuasive Presentations by Nancy Duarte

NA. James K. Polk by Walter Borneman

15. The Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw

16. The Illustrious Dead by Stephan Talty

17. The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk

18. Adventures of Johnny Bunko by Dan Pink

19. Thunderstruck by Erik Larson

20. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

21. Ctrl Alt Delete by Mitch Joel

22. Down & Dirty Pictures by Peter Biskind

23. Makers by Chris Anderson

24. Tales from Q School by John Feinstein

25. The Business of Belief by Tom Asacker

26. 18 Minutes by Peter Bregman

27. Drive by Dan Pink

28. Enough by John Bogle

29. Contagious by Jonah Berger

30. Lexicon by Max Barry

31. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

32. A Very Short Tour of the Mind by Michael Corballis



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Trackbacks

  1. Libro 33/52 :: The No Asshole Rule by Robert Sutton « the red angle
  2. Libro 34 + 35/52 :: Choose Yourself by James Altucher + The Halo Effect by Phil Rosenzwieg. « the red angle
  3. Libro 36/52 :: Inside The Box by Drew Boyd and Jacob Goldenberg. « the red angle
  4. Libro 37 + 38/52 :: The Power of Less by Leo Babauta + Wild by Cheryl Strayed « the red angle
  5. Libro 39/52 :: Big Data by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and Kenneth Cukier. « the red angle
  6. Libro 42/52 :: Black Irish by Stephan Talty « the red angle
  7. Libro 43/52 :: The Firm by Duff McDonald « the red angle
  8. Libros 44-50 :: The final chapter of the Libro 52* Challenge. « the red angle

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