Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Blink, Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell

What can I say about Blink aside from the obvious jokes?

Well, I started out being really interested in it, but that's an oddity of my personal nature. The opening vignette is about an ancient Greek sculpture that a museum bought. It that turned out to be a modern fake, and the story of how the mistake was made and uncovered was presented. As a sculptor, it resonated with me, but that's probably just me.

After that it goes down hill. While the research Gladwell summarizes is interesting, there is nothing really useful presented here. His underlying thesis - that we all make snap judgements based on very little information, and that sometimes those judgements are good ones - seems obvious on the face of it. But the repetitive nature of his assertions gets old, and the fact that he never once indicates how to change one's skill at "thin-slicing" is irritating in the end.

Yes, he does indicate that experts are better at thin-slicing in their domains, but "Become an expert" is a useless answer to the question "How do I get better at thin-slicing?"

And he fails to explain certain things. For example, the museum that bought the stature hired experts to authenticate it. Why did those people fail to note the problems that others noted later? Why didn't they thin-slice the problem as well? Clearly becoming and expert isn't enough, and there are no other answers given in here.

This would have been better in a much shorter format. As it was, I feel like I wasted a lot of time with it.

Gladwell's earlier big work was The Tipping Point and I thought I might read it, but after reading this I'm not so sure. There's more PR than substance in Blink and the reviews on amazon.com make me think that could be the case there too. Oh well.