5 books, part 1: Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

446 words, 3 minutes.

“The world makes much less sense than you think. The coherence comes mostly from the way your mind works.”

Following on from the introduction post, if there’s one important takeaway I learned from reading Thinking, Fast and Slow by Nobel Prize winning Daniel Kahneman, it’s don’t always trust whatever thought first comes to mind.

While reading this book I enjoyed the insight into how my own thinking works. Kahneman’s approach of telling a story about our brains as if they’re two characters, which he calls System 1 and System 2, goes a long way to showing how our subconscious mind can easily fool our decision making.

I’ve long been fond of challenging my initial gut feeling on anything, but this book introduced me to the premortem. Attributed to psychologist Gary Klein, the premortem could be a saving step for any project:

The premise of the session is a short speech: “imagine that we are a year into the future. We implemented the plan as it now exists. The outcome was a disaster. Please take 5 to 10 minutes to write a brief history of that disaster.”

This forces us to think of the exact opposite of what we’ve been planning for. An imaginative way to keep our assumptions in check.

One powerful example of our natural tendency to think irrationally is the Linda problem, otherwise known as the conjunction fallacy. Before you head off to the Wikipedia page, test yourself:

Linda is 31 years old, single, outspoken, and very bright. She majored in philosophy. As a student, she was deeply concerned with issues of discrimination and social justice, and also participated in anti-nuclear demonstrations.

Which is more probable?

  1. Linda is a bank teller.
  2. Linda is a bank teller and is active in the feminist movement.

Which did you pick? Now you can read the Wikipedia page.

You’ll find a lot of blog posts written off the back of Thinking, Fast and Slow. Tyler Odean, a product manager at Reddit (and formerly, Google), uses Kahneman’s writing as the base for an article on improving your influencing skills.

“The more information, logic and reasoning you present to try to get an idea across, the more you actually push the audience away”

I found Kahneman’s book to be a valuable read, not only because it’s given me a new insight into my own thinking. It has also given me the ability to see everything has a reason—even when one doesn’t appear clearly or immediately. The book brings so much more weight to a statement I’ve sworn by for years:

K I S S: Keep It Simple, Stupid

Next time we’ll take a look at Creativity, Inc by Ed Catmull.