Thinking, Fast and Slow | Book Review


WIWDD -- or What I Will do differently -- describes our listed behavior change goals developed during our Leadership Programs, often captured on an Action Plan. Thinking, Fast and Slow, a significant book by Daniel Kahneman, offers a much deeper psychological penetration into how we think, with many leader ramifications. This review is for those who are a bit more curious about why they choose certain decisions, particularly impulsive ones, and what ramifications are likely.

Recommended Approach

Kahneman’s book introduces two modes of thinking: Fast Thinking, often impulsive or instinctive; and Slow Thinking, deliberate, often rational, and frequently in conflict with Fast Thinking. Part I introduces the Two Systems of thinking and is the core of the book. Part III, Overconfidence, has many valuable lessons for leaders, especially (in my opinion) dominant red (E2L) profiles. Chapters 21 and 23, Intuition vs. Formulas & The Outside View, respectively, are particularly valuable.

Part II, Heuristics and Biases, veers toward statistical analysis, although Chapter 11, Anchors, is a gem. Part IV, Choices, is largely a series of economic analysis and challenges more suited for shaping and improving public policies. Chapters 37 and 38, Experienced Well-Being and Thinking About Life, respectively, offer a fine closure and are useful for reflective journaling.

This is a deep book, with significant reference utility. Another way to approach this book is to read the summary quotes at the end of each chapter, determine if the statements provoke further interest, and if so, return to the chapter beginning.

Leadership Nuggets

Pages 22-24 describe how the two systems approach can lead to blindness, that is blindness in the sense of the low colors of our E2L profiles. This sets up System 2 as our source of self-control (page 26), especially during our inevitable conflicts between automatic reactions and our intent to control, and the realization that it is much easier (page 28) to notice other people’s errors rather than our own. Dominant reds please take notice.

Chapter 21 is a refreshing caution for those of us who tend to complicate things or endlessly request data. Often simple statistics will do just fine. Dr. Apgar’s story on pages 226-7 drives the point home. Page 232 made me think of E2L profile colors that are good for sales, or customer facing roles (red and yellow).

Chapter 24 is an interesting meditation on optimism and entrepreneurs. The Chapter, entitled The Engine of Capitalism, could easily be re-titled Attitude as Destiny. Very energizing.

JE | November 2013